Converting predation cues into conservation management tools: The effect of light on Mus musculus behaviour (#24)
Prey species face a conflict between acquiring energy and avoiding predators and use both direct and indirect predation cues to assess predation risk. One indirect cue is illumination, which affects nocturnal rodent foraging behaviour. In New Zealand and other island ecosystems (e.g. Hawaii) rodents are introduced pests which can have serious consequences on native biodiversity. We assessed if artificial manipulations of light could limit the activity of pest mice (Mus musculus) through inducing risk avoidance behaviour. We assessed Giving-Up Densities (GUDs) and observed foraging frequency and duration to determine if captive mice in outdoor pens had a preference for foraging under illuminated or dark conditions. We then used GUDs at a pest fenced sanctuary (Maungatautari, New Zealand) to determine the effect illumination had on foraging behaviour of wild mice. Both captive and wild mice exhibited avoidance behaviour in response to artificial illumination and removed less seeds from illuminated seed trays. Captive mice spent less than 1.0% of their available time at illuminated sites; visited the lit seed tray less than half as often as the unlit tray; and spent five times less time per visit at the illuminated site. Illumination could be useful for protecting nesting sites, deterring mice from damaged exclusion fences until repair, preventing reinvasion at fence terminus zones of peninsula sanctuaries and minimising unwanted immigration to ecologically intact offshore islands. Possible limitations of illumination include pests habituating to the stimulus, attraction of other unwanted pests such as stoats (Mustela erminea), and unwelcome impacts on valued non-target native species.