Small Mammal Research
One of the largest mammal studies ever accomplished is ongoing at Ames Plantation. Much of the project has been completed, however, some of the work remains to be done. At this time, most of the work is focused on writing dissertations or theses, and also in getting the information into the appropriate scientific journals. The work sets the stage for other work that can be accomplished - work that does not exist anywhere in the scientific world, absolutely unique and leaping off the cutting edge of science.
The study has focused on medium sized predators, referred to as mesopredators, and is largely confined to three that are common in west Tennessee: raccoons, stripped skunks and opossums. These three predators are commonly called generalists, moving around on the landscape and making their living off of a wide array of resources. They can adapt quickly to changing circumstances. Their numbers, to a large degree, are not depressed by hunting. They are not, themselves, depressed by larger predators, although the coyote perhaps is a factor. As a result, a new situation, or paradigm, has formed, where a mesopredator group, or guild, is functioning in a new circumstance; one that is missing the population controls that once were here. Very little is known about how these predators react with microhabitats or how to predict the places that they visit regularly, how to control their numbers with habitat management, or, conversely, how to help their populations with habitat manipulations. This information simply does not exist in great detail where a generalist predator population, mostly lacking the habitat limits or predation that would normally be imposed on it, can influence prey populations, such as the bobwhite quail, an animal that requires very specific habitats.
Five separate studies are centered around the mammal research. However, other studies also are underway, including study of small mammal such as mice. Mice form a prey base for many of the larger predators.