Oral presentation- Open Session 12th International Mammalogical Congress

Anti-predator training of the endangered Pacific pocket mouse (Perognathus longimembris pacificus) slated for reintroduction (#417)

Debra Shier 1 , Shauna King 1
  1. Recovery Ecology, Institute for Conservation Research, San Diego Zoo Global, Escondido, California, United States of America

Reintroductions are an important management tool for recovering endangered species, but have low success rates in part due to behaviorally unequipped individuals. The inability for captive-born animals to recognize predators and/or respond with wild-type anti-predator behavior is especially problematic for small prey species.  In our conservation breeding/reintroduction program for the endangered Pacific pocket mouse (Perognathus longimembris pacificus; PPM), results of antipredator experiments showed that captive-born individuals are less wary than wild-caught mice when presented with a terrestrial or aerial predator.  We, therefore, initiated anti-predator training one month prior to the reintroduction with the goal of improving behavioral competency and release success. All mice slated for release (n = 25), and the alternates (n = 6) were exposed to a California king snake (Lampropeltis getula californiae) for 5 minutes pre- and post-training. The snake was contained within a Plexiglass unit with slits to allow PPM to experience olfactory as well as visual cues.  Training consisted of pairing exposure to the snake with both a PPM distress call, and a physical thump under the testing arena in the event that the focal subject approached the snake. All trials were recorded, and behavior was quantified pre- and post-training to assess learning.  Individuals that did not display the appropriate anti-predator response (e.g. freezing, retreating to cover, etc.) after training were removed from the release cohort, and replaced with a behaviorally competent alternate. The results of the experiment will be discussed.