Sherman trapping at the APC – Lauren Wimbish

During August, I went into the field to trap small mammals at the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge near Sealy, Texas. I spent August 19-21 at the refuge with two graduate students from the Light Lab who were collecting samples for their research. The purpose of this research was to examine the effects of invasive red imported fire ants on small mammals, ticks, and tick-borne pathogens. On the first night we arrived, we set out 60 Sherman live traps at each of four transects distributed across areas where fire ants were present and where fire ants were chemically reduced. The Sherman traps are small rectangular boxes that are baited with sunflower seeds and are placed on the ground with one end of the trap left open. When an animal enters the trap and reaches the other side where the bait is located, the trap closes. Sherman traps are live traps, which means no harm comes to the animal.  While putting our traps out, we also collect any ticks that crawl on us. That first night, we caught about 20 ticks! The ticks kept getting onto our clothes, which made it easy to collect them. The only downside to seeing so many ticks was that we had to thoroughly check ourselves to make sure none of the ticks latched onto our skin or got underneath our clothing. The next morning we got up at around 7am to go check the traps. Checking the traps early in the day is a necessity to prevent any trapped mammals from over heating and to avoid unnecessary ant predation.  That morning we caught nine mammals. We checked each of the nine mammals for ticks, weighed them, placed an ear tag in their ear for mark-recapture purposes (if not already tagged), took an ear biopsy for pathogen screening, and took a blood sample if they were large enough (so as not to negatively affect the health of the animal). After taking these samples, we released the animals back where we caught them.  Going through and checking the traps and taking samples only took a few hours, so the middle of the day was free time. I spent the day reading and talking to the staff at Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge.  At around 6pm, we went back out and reset all of our traps for the night.  The next morning we went out and picked up all of our traps. We ended up catching eleven mammals that morning. We took the mammals back to our trailer where we were staying and set up a table to take samples from all of them.  One of the animals, which was a cotton rat, escaped from our grasps and went on the run. The little sucker was fast, but with teamwork we were able to trap the little guy and finish taking samples. After taking samples and releasing the mammals we packed up our stuff and headed back to College Station.


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