Oral Presentation- Symposium 12th International Mammalogical Congress

Post-control recovery of behaviourally homogenous pest populations: A case study of personality in wild house mice (Mus musculus) (#89)

Kyla C Johnstone 1 , Peter Banks 1 , Clare McArthur 1
  1. University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Animal interactions with wildlife management devices, such as traps or bait stations, rely upon an animal's behavioral decision to interact with the device. This decision is strongly influenced by an individual’s personality traits (consistent behaviour exhibited over time and context) and bias often arises as bolder animals more readily interact with devices, while shyer animals avoid detection. This bias is has significant implications to pest management if residual, un-trapped individuals are capable of rapidly repopulating, resulting from the removal of all but the extremely shy individuals from a population. It is unknown how such homogenous residual populations behave or whether its constrained behaviour will affect future population growth. As behavioural traits are partially hereditary, the populations may become behaviorally homogenised across generations, with an entire population becoming neophobic. Or they may be able to exploit the opportunities of a largely unoccupied behavioural spectrum; exponentially increasing in population size. We report on an experimental study of the implications of personality-driven biased pest removal on population recovery. Using standard personality screening protocols, wild-caught house mice were classified into bold, shy or mixed populations; each comprised of six founder individuals. Populations were released into semi-natural enclosures where limited food was dispersed in safe or risky areas. Over a nine-week period, we studied the founder and F1 generation behaviour, rates of population increase and changes in behavioural profiles. We discuss the implications of our results for other programs that may only target a proportion of the behavioural continuum when monitoring or managing wildlife populations.