Testing the Efficacy and Potential Consequences of Fencing As A Wildlife Management Tool
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This dissertation examines how various anthropogenic barriers affect wildlife movement, and in particular, how fencing affects movement and behavior of both migratory prey and predators in semi-porous environments. I chose to examine this subject as our planets last remaining ecosystems are threatened by human encroachment due to population pressure, agriculture, and a myriad of other ecological stressors. In order to mitigate the encroachment, conservation fencing is rapidly becoming the norm even though constraining wildlife movement is fraught with ecological issues. My interest in conservation fencing was to examine the potentially hidden or understudied consequences of its usage. The introduction discusses human-wildlife conflicts and the role of fences. Chapters 1 and 2 review the literature concerning animal movement and landscape ecology and set the general framework from which follows the series of specific studies in Chapters 3-6. Chapter 3 compares basic monitoring methods that lie at the core of the studies that follow. In this chapter, a comparison of traditional track monitoring to modern camera trapping methods demonstrated the power of mechanical vigilance but also the importance of timely monitoring for managerial decisions. Chapter 4 examines the effectiveness of fence-gaps, a wildlife management tool designed to compromise between complete isolation by fencing and an open landscape. The results of this study showed that most of the species in situ have indeed discovered these fence-gaps. Chapter 5 explores the potentially unintended consequences of the creation of fence-gaps as these structures funnel migration movement and thus could act as prey-traps. Using a spatial analysis of carcass locations, the results of this study demonstrated that predation locations did not cluster near the fence-gaps. Chapter 6 examines predation near the perimeter fencing and within fenced areas designed to exclude elephant. Results showed that lion predation was not over-represented near the perimeter fences and that exclosures provided good hunting grounds for lion but these exclosures did not create prey-traps. The dissertation concludes that fencing is a useful conservation tool that requires reliable monitoring to understand how wildlife functions with fencing, and to permit managers to react to issues through an adaptive management framework.