Use of track plates to quantify predation risk at small spatial scales

Matthew J. Connors, Eric M. Schauber, Andrew Forbes, Clive G. Jones, Brett J. Goodwin, Richard S. Ostfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Spatial heterogeneity in risk is a critical component of predator-prey interactions. However, at small spatial scales, it is difficult to quantify predation risk without altering it. We used track plates to measure local predation risk created by white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) foraging activity on oak-forest plots in Millbrook, New York. Live gypsy moth pupae (Lymantria dispar) were placed at 2 heights on trees and monitored for predation. Pupae deployed on trees visited by mice were more likely to be eaten than those on trees not visited. Logistic regression indicated that predation rates on gypsy moth pupae were positively correlated with track activity, indicating that areas of concentrated mouse activity were areas of heightened risk for gypsy moths. Survival of individual oat grains placed on and 50 cm from track plates were not statistically different, indicating that mice exhibited no detectable behavioral reaction toward track plates. We conclude that track plates offer an economical and reliable means of quantifying local risk of attack by terrestrial mammals without substantially altering the spatial distribution of risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)991-996
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Mammalogy
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Peromyscus leucopus
  • Predation risk
  • Spatial heterogeneity
  • Track plates
  • White-footed mouse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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