Utility Rights-of-Way Wildlife Research at Penn State
Plant and animal community response to long-term vegetation management on rights-of-way
Small Mammal Population Research
Small mammals are important components of any ecosystem, including rights-of-way. From an ecological perspective, small mammals serve as prey for predators and are major links in the food chain.
A two-year study was conducted on SGL33 to determine relative abundance and species richness (number of species) of small mammals on the right-of-way compared to the adjacent forest. Results of the study showed that eight species of small mammals were noted on the right-of-way compared to only two in the adjacent forest. Five species of mice [whitefooted mouse (Peromyscus leucopus), meadow vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus), red-backed vole (Clethrionomys gapperi), woodland jumping mouse (Napaeozapus insignis), and meadow jumping mouse (Zapus hudsonius)], two shrew species [short-tailed (Blarina brevicauda) and masked (Sorex cinereus)], and a short-tailed weasel (Mustela erminea) occurred on the right-of-way.
The findings of this study and a companion study conclude that specific treatments on the right-of-way produce cover types that benefit small mammals compared to the adjacent forest cover type. In addition, small mammals use a diversity of cover types found on the right-of-way from grass to shrub. Evidently, the right-of-way serves as a large forest clearing, which provides habitat for forest species (e.g., white-footed mouse and woodland jumping mouse) in border zones and habitat for early successional species (e.g., meadow vole and meadow jumping mouse) in wire zones.
- Small mammals contribute to the diversity of wildlife within a right-of-way. 7 32 33
- Small mammal population and diversity is greater within the treated right-of-way than the adjacent forest. 7 32
- Cover types that benefit small mammals can be predicted through the implementation of specific right-of-way maintenance techniques. 6
- Small mammals use a diversity of cover types from grass to shrub that result from integrated vegetation management on the right-of-way. 7 32 33
- Small mammals are important in reducing tree reinvasion by feeding on tree seeds and seedlings. 7 32
6Bramble WC, WR Byrnes, RJ Hutnik, and SA Liscinsky. 1991. Prediction of cover type on rights-of-way after maintenance treatments. J. Arboric. 17(2):38-43.⤴
7Bramble WC, RH Byrnes, and SA Liscinsky. 1992. Small mammals in plant cover types on an electric utility right-of-way. J. Arboric. 18(6): 318-319. ⤴