Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Davis, J. Brian

Committee Member

Mini, Anne E.

Committee Member

Street, Garrett M.

Committee Member

Kaminski, Richard M.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Forest Resources

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Forest Resources


Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture


Interactions between animal populations and their environment form the foundation of wildlife management, and provision of resources that enhance fitness produce effectual management. Hunting is a selective force that shapes behavior and other adaptations of harvested species and may subsequently impact diel habitat use. Moreover, linking habitat use to biological outcomes, such as survival, is needed to evidence habitat suitability because of equivocal relations among population density, habitat correlations, or energy availability to population dynamics. The mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) is among the most coveted and harvested waterfowl in North America and is a migratory species of ecological, economic, and social importance. The Mississippi Alluvial Valley (MAV) is an ancestral and continentally important wintering area for North American mallards despite significant anthropogenic wetland transformation. Through targeted objectives and consequence of soil and water conservation, financial assistance programs have expanded waterfowl habitat on private lands in Mississippi. I radiomarked 265 female mallards and tracked their diel habitat use in winters 2010-2015 to evaluate objectives related to their wintering ecology in the MAV of Mississippi. Specifically, I investigated whether waterfowl hunting influenced use of some habitats during hunting season, the effectiveness of financial assistance programs in providing habitat, and habitat suitability through habitat specific survival rates. Females made greatest use of forested and emergent wetlands diurnally and emergent wetlands and flooded cropland at night. Results suggested that mallards did not avoid flooded cropland or emergent wetlands diurnally during hunting season, but conclusions were complicated by significant use of inviolate sanctuaries. Mallards used numerous incentivized conservation program wetlands, but use was less than public and privately managed wetlands. Among conservation programs, those with large enrollment and a focus on restoration (i.e., Wetlands Reserve Program) were most used by mallards. Apparent survival was independent of diurnal habitat use suggesting that mallards use of wetland complexes leads to their winter survival. Restoration of forested wetlands should be a management focus and easement programs provide such inroads on private lands. Public wetlands are an important source of habitat and inviolate sanctuary should be considered where waterfowl hunting is a predominate activity.