Date of Award

Spring 2008

Document Type

Legacy Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Coastal Marine and Wetland Studies


Coastal and Marine Systems Science


College of Science

First Advisor

Keith R. Walters

Second Advisor

Wendy R. Hood

Third Advisor

Robert F. Young

Additional Advisors

Keshav Jagannathan


Rodents play significant roles in many communities acting as predators, prey, and dispersal agents for trees and plants. The distribution and abundance of rodents often reflects habitat preferences based on the quality of existing habitats. Alterations and land management practices (e.g. strip disking) can significantly affect small mammal populations. To assess habitat quality and management practice effects, small mammal populations on Spring Island, SC were studied in the summer of 2007. Relative abundance, distance traveled, and area used by three species of small rodents were quantified in four distinct habitats: oak, pine, palmetto, and managed fields. Peromyscus gossypinus was the most common small terrestrial mammal on the island. Although P. gossypinus was found in all of the habitats, palmetto and pine habitats were preferred. Abundances of Sigmodon hispidus and Oryzomys palustris were notably lower than P. gossypinus. Sigmodon hispidus was not found in oak habitats and O. palustris was not found in oak or palmetto habitats; both preferred managed fields and pine habitats. Findings confirm that P. gossypinus is a habitat generalist, whereas preferences of S. hispidus and O. palustris are more specific. The distance traveled and area covered within a night by P. gossypinus did not differ between habitats. Peromyscus gossypinus is abundant in palmetto and pine habitats, but the quality of the habitats may not differ. Within managed fields, rodents traveled greater distances in areas that were not disked relative to those areas that were disked, suggesting possible avoidance of disked areas. Findings oppose the prediction that rodents would prefer areas with greater concentration of native plants. Since disking did not influence the relative abundance of native grasses as expected, preference for un-disked areas was associated with preference for undisturbed and/or flatter topography. Land management practices often overlook non-targeted species such as small mammals. Through this study, land managers will be able to determine the impact made on non-targeted species as well as targeted species based off of preference, abundance, and habitat quality.