Effect of woody debris abundance on daytime refuge use by cotton mice
Daytime refuges are important to nocturnal rodents for protection from predators and environmental extremes. Because refuges of forest-dwelling rodents are often associated with woody debris, we examined refuge use by 37 radio-collared Peromyscus gossypinus (cotton mice) in experimental plots with different levels of woody debris. Treatment plots had six times (≈ 60 m3/ha) the volume of woody debris as control plots (≈ 10 m3/ha). Of 247 refuges, 159 were in rotting stumps (64%), 32 were in root boles (13%), 19 were in brush piles (8%), and 16 were in logs (6%); 10 refuges could not be identified. Stumps were the most common refuge type in both treatments, but the distribution of refuge types was significantly different between treatment and control plots. Root boles and brush piles were used more on treatment plots than on control plots, and logs were used more on control plots than on treatment plots. Refuge type and vegetation cover were the best predictors of refuge use by cotton mice; root bole refuges and refuges with less vegetation cover received greater-than-expected use by mice. Abundant refuges, particularly root boles, may improve habitat quality for cotton mice in southeastern pine forests.