HABITAT-SPECIFIC VARIATION IN MAMMAL COMMUNITIES USING CAMERA TRAPS IN WESTERN TEXAS
Multiple-species analyses are useful to wildlife managers concerned with community-level interactions, habitat use, and landscape connectivity. In western Texas, the community-level habitat use of mammals is not known. I combined ordination techniques with a community-level camera trap study across western Texas to examine variation in mammalian habitat use along environmental gradients within and across three study sites. I initiated a camera trap study from September 2014 to October 2015 across an east-west gradient in western Texas to address which environmental variables most influenced habitat use in a small to large mammal community. I stratified camera traps (n=16) across 4 coarse habitat types (upland, lowland, midslope, drainage) in each of three study sites: Buck Hollow Ranch, Independence Creek Preserve, and Black Gap Wildlife Management Area. Cameras captured 1,017,864 images across all 3 sites, and were combined with camera-specific environmental variables (n= 63) and fragmentation statistics in a canonical correspondence analysis (CCA). Habitat use by 40 mammal species across the 3 sites in western Texas exhibited weak associations with the selected environmental variables. The CCA showed 40 out of 63 possible environmental variables were significant for explaining variation in mammal community habitat use, though patterns of habitat use were weak for all 40 individual species. A cluster of species were positively, albeit weakly, associated with upland habitat type, including. black-tailed jackrabbit, burro, kit fox, kangaroo rat, and American badger. I found no evidence of iii habitat partitioning amongst any species detected in this study; it is possible that mammal communities in western Texas are structured temporally and not spatially. Because spatial organization of wildlife communities is associated with habitat selection and use and prey availability, the results of this study may suggest that the habitat in these 3 study areas is high quality. I found that all 40 of the species surveyed use diverse habitat, which provides baseline information from which to generate new questions for Texas wildlife management. Future examinations should consider other landscape variables in order to more effectively understand how communities perceive and use habitat types, and, given the size of these datasets, analyses may be more beneficial when restricted to ecologically similar groups. My study demonstrates that remote cameras can be used to survey multiple species simultaneously using a stratified study design.