The Wade Tract Preserve: Wildlife

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The rare Red-cockaded Woodpecker.

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Birds are the most studied animal group on the Wade Tract Preserve. Over 90 species have been observed and nearly 40 species have been recorded breeding on the site. The Tract is of major significance for the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker. The Wade Tract provides a unique opportunity to study the ecology and population dynamics of this rare and declining species in conditions that are believed to mirror the original landscape of the southeastern U.S. This rare woodpecker is common on the tract, with >60 active and abandoned cavity and start trees, and the distances between territory centers are among the smallest recorded anywhere. This observation, combined with the small home range sizes that have been documented for birds using the area (ca. 50 ha, see publications, suggest optimal conditions exist (see figure at right).

Studies of Bachman’s Sparrow and Brown-headed Nuthatch are also underway to better understand the ecology of these declining species.

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Monitoring female gopher tortoises

The Preserve also is home to numerous species of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians (see complete list), including an estimated 100 gopher tortoises. Most tortoise research has been conducted by Drs. Sharon Hermann and Craig Guyer and their students. Projects include monitoring female behavior using unmanned digital cameras and studies of home range and movement patterns using radio telemetry. Surveys of new and existing burrows also are conducted periodically (see figure at right).

Seth Stapleton, a graduate student at the University of Georgia, monitored snake populations on the Wade Tract and other nearby properties in 2003 (read more ../gamebirdsahu.html). Corn snakes and eastern garter snakes made up a greater proportion of total captures on the Wade Tract than on other sites. In addition, Florida pine snakes (8), scarlet snakes (6), and scarlet kingsnakes (5) were captured at increased rates at the Wade Tract as compared to other sites. Interestingly, only one gray rat snake (shown below) was captured at the Wade Tract while this species was very common on both other properties. Other species documented at the Wade Tract included eastern coachwhips (9), eastern diamondback rattlesnakes (4), and a cottonmouth (1).

This study suggested longleaf pine-wiregrass forests support a different snake community than old-field pineland habitats. Corn and Florida pine snakes associate with the open, grassland habitats of the longleaf system, while gray rat snakes associates with hardwoods more prevalent in the old-field ecosystem.

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Gray rat snakes associates with hardwoods more prevalent in the old-field ecosystem.

Exotic Species

To date, few exotic animals have been recorded on the Preserve. The most frequently encountered species is the imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta). Casual observations suggest that this species is located along the road and interior foot trails and less common in areas with intact wiregrass ground cover. The most common exotic vertebrates documented infrequently on the Preserve are European Starling and armadillos. Coyotes and feral cats, dogs, and hogs are rare.

More Information About The Wade Tract Preserve