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ISPRS Int. J. Geo-Inf. 2018, 7(7), 247; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijgi7070247

Distribution Pattern of Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) Dens and Spatial Relationships with Sea Turtle Nests, Recreation, and Environmental Characteristics

1
Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, NC 28403, USA
2
Department of Environmental Sciences, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, NC 28403, USA
3
North Carolina Division of Coastal Management, Wilmington, NC 28409, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 21 May 2018 / Revised: 14 June 2018 / Accepted: 19 June 2018 / Published: 23 June 2018
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Abstract

Although sea turtles are formidable prey as adults, their nests are highly vulnerable to terrestrial predation. Along the Southeastern coast of the United States, a primary predator of sea turtle nests is the red fox (Vulpes vulpes). Examining the relationship between fox populations and nest predation is often difficult due to coastal development. Masonboro Island, North Carolina is an undeveloped, natural, 13-km-long barrier island complex that is a component of the North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR). Masonboro Island consists of beaches, a dune ridge, back barrier flats, an expansive salt marsh, a lagoon, and spoil islands seaward of the Intracoastal Waterway. A field survey, which was conducted each spring from 2009 through 2012, recorded den entrance coordinates based upon recent use by foxes. Sea turtle nests were located using a similar survey methodology, which identifies viable and predated nests as well as false crawls. A series of spatial-temporal pattern analysis techniques were used to identify trends through time. The results indicated that: (1) fox den entrances and predated sea turtle nests were clustered throughout the island (p = 0.01); (2) den entrances in the northern part of the island were closer to the sea turtle nests than other locations on the island; (3) fox den entrances were positively correlated (p = 0.01) with dune height, (4) fox den entrances were located closer to the island boat access sites than expected (p = 0.01). A variety of spatial sensitivity tests were used to test the validity of the statistically significant cluster analyses. A Geographically Weighted Regression model was created to predict the location of fox dens using dune elevation, the distance to predated sea turtle nests, and the distance to boat access sites. The model accounted for 40% of the variance and had a small residual error, which indicates that the independent variables were statistically valid. Results from this project will be used by the NC NERR staff to develop management plans and to further study fox-related impacts on the island. For example, given the higher density of fox den entrances on the northern part of the island, managers may consider targeted wildlife control measures during the sea turtle nesting season to diminish predation. View Full-Text
Keywords: red fox; barrier island; sea turtle; recreation; island topography; spatial correlation; cluster analysis; geographically weighted regression red fox; barrier island; sea turtle; recreation; island topography; spatial correlation; cluster analysis; geographically weighted regression
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Halls, J.N.; Hill, J.M.; Urbanek, R.E.; Sutton, H. Distribution Pattern of Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) Dens and Spatial Relationships with Sea Turtle Nests, Recreation, and Environmental Characteristics. ISPRS Int. J. Geo-Inf. 2018, 7, 247.

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