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Ecological Importance of Feral Ungulates at Shackleford Banks, North Carolina

Gene W. Wood, Michael T. Mengak and Mark Murphy
The American Midland Naturalist
Vol. 118, No. 2 (Oct., 1987), pp. 236-244
DOI: 10.2307/2425780
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2425780
Page Count: 9
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Ecological Importance of Feral Ungulates at Shackleford Banks, North Carolina
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Abstract

The relationship between feral ungulates (horses, cattle, sheep and goats) and plant communities on Shackleford Banks, North Carolina, was studied from 1978 through 1981. Aerial counts indicated that ungulate numbers during the study period ranged as follows: horses, 81 to 108, cattle, 64 to 89 and sheep, 104 to 144. Goats probably numbered from 100 to 150. Accurate counts of goats were hindered by their frequent use of forest and thicket habitats. Ungulates influenced vegetation community dynamics by lowering aboveground current annual growth in the saltmarsh and grass-shrub areas. They also slowed the rate of succession in grass-shrub areas. The data suggest that grazers have been preventing the development of Andropogon spp. as an important community component on grassy dunes. Diet data and observation of browse lines suggested that grazing also interfered with the spatial increase of the maritime forest.

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