Small-Mammal Response to Moonlight in Restored Tallgrass Prairie
Schofield, Nora L., 1995--
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Small mammals play an important role in prairies by eating and dispersing seeds of native plants. Most small mammals are nocturnal, and moonlight can suppress small-mammal activity by increasing predation risk, but this has not previously been investigated in prairies. We hypothesized that moonlight suppresses nocturnal activity of three common small-mammal species (Peromyscus maniculatus, Peromyscus leucopus, and Microtus ochrogaster). We tested this hypothesis using small-mammal trapping data from Nachusa Grasslands, a restored tallgrass prairie in Franklin Grove, IL, from 2013 – 2019 and determined the moon phase during each night of trapping. Moonlight impact on nighttime activity varied by species. P. maniculatus, the most common species, was less active on nights with bright moonlight, while P. leucopus was more active during bright moons. This suggests that moonlight might affect competition between small mammal species for resources such as seeds.