Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Wildlife Biology

Department or School/College

W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, Division of Biological Sciences, Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit

Committee Chair

Angela Luis

Commitee Members

Amy Kuenzi, Solomon Dobrowski, Brady Allred


deer mice, survival, hantavirus, environment, southwest


University of Montana


North American deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) are the primary reservoir for Sin Nombre orthohantavirus, and they play a significant role in the maintenance and transmission of disease across the landscape. Vital rates, such as survival, are a key component to understanding how disease spreads in a population. Understanding environmental factors that influence survival may allow for development of a predictive model that can assess disease risk in deer mice and, thus, a corresponding increased disease risk for humans. Our work explored the relationship between deer mouse survival and environmental variables at three long-term small mammal trapping sites in the United States Southwest. Using Bayesian variable selection, we assessed support for normalized difference vegetation index, precipitation, temperature minima and maxima, and snow-water equivalent at various time lags. From the selection process we formulated a robust-design capture-mark-recapture model in a Bayesian framework to quantify the effect of the selected variables on deer mouse survival. We found that survival varied by location and no one set of variables best explained survival across all sites. Consistencies between sites indicate that survival of deer mice follows a seasonal trend and does not vary by sex. Some of our results contrast previous work focused on use of environmental variables to predict deer mouse abundance and did not provide a consistent finding around which to formulate a predictive model. Future modeling efforts should focus on assessing both survival and reproduction as well as consideration of a more place-specific approach that includes additional variables that influence survival in different ecological contexts.



© Copyright 2020 Emily C. Weidner