• Behavioral Responses at Distribution Extremes: How Artificial Surface Water Can Affect Quail Movement Patterns

      Tanner, E. P.; Elmore, R. D.; Fuhlendorf, S. D.; Davis, C. A.; Thacker, E. T.; Dahlgren, D. K. (Society for Range Management, 2015-11)
      Supplementing wildlife populations with resources during times of limitation has been suggested for many species. The focus of our study was to determine responses of northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus; Linnaeus) and scaled quail (Callipepla squamata; Vigors) to artificial surface-water sources in semiarid rangelands. From 2012-2014, we monitored quail populations via radio telemetry at Beaver River Wildlife Management Area, Beaver County, Oklahoma. We used cumulative distribution functions and resource utilization functions (RUFs) to determine behavioral responses of quail to water sources. We also used Program MARK to determine if water sources had any effect on quail vital rates. Our results indicated that both northern bobwhite and scaled quail exhibited behavioral responses to the presence of surface-water sources. Northern bobwhite selected for areas < 700 m and < 650 m from water sources during the breeding and nonbreeding season, respectively. However, the nonbreeding season response was weak ( =-0.06, SE = < 0.01), and the breeding season ( = 0.01, SE = 0.02) response was nonsignificant on the basis of RUFs. Scaled quail selected for areas < 650 m and < 250 m from water sources during the breeding and nonbreeding season, respectively. The breeding season RUF ( =-0.31, SE = 0.07) indicated a stronger response for scaled quail than bobwhite. Conversely, there was no direct effect of surface water on quail vital rates or nest success during the course of our study. Although water may affect behavioral patterns of quail, we found no evidence that it affects quail survival or nest success for these two species. © 2015 Society for Range Management. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    • Greater Sage-Grouse and Range Management: Insights from a 25-Year Case Study in Utah and Wyoming

      Dahlgren, D. K.; Larsen, R. T.; Danvir, R.; Wilson, G.; Thacker, E. T.; Black, T. A.; Naugle, D. E.; Connelly, J. W.; Messmer, T. A. (Society for Range Management, 2015-09)
      Conservation of sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) systems is one of the most difficult and pressing concerns in western North America. Sagebrush obligates, such as greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus; hereafter sagegrouse), have experienced population declines as sagebrush systems have degraded. Science-based management is crucial to improve certainty in range management practices. Although large-scale implementation of management regimens within an experimental design is difficult, long-term case studies provide opportunities to improve learning and develop and refine hypotheses. We used 25 years of data across three large landscapes in northern Utah and southwestern Wyoming to assess sage-grouse population change and corresponding land management differences in a case study design. Sage-grouse lek counts at our Deseret Land and Livestock (DLL) study site increased relative to surrounding populations in correspondence with the implementation of small-acreage sagebrush treatments designed to reduce shrub cover and increase herbaceous understory within a prescriptive grazing management framework. The higher lek counts were sustained for nearly 15 years. However, with continued sagebrush treatments and the onset of adverse winter conditions, DLL lek counts declined to levels consistent with surrounding areas. During summer, DLL sage-grouse broods used plots of small, treated sagebrush mosaics more than untreated reference sites. We hypothesize that sagebrush treatments on DLL increased availability of grasses and forbs to sagegrouse, similar to other studies, but that cumulative annual reductions in sagebrush may have reduced availability of sagebrush cover for sage-grouse seasonal needs at DLL, especially when extreme winter weather occurred. © 2015 The Authors.
    • Weather constrains the influence of fire and grazing on nesting greater prairie-chickens

      Hovick, T. J.; Dwayne, Elmore, R.; Fuhlendorf, S. D.; Dahlgren, D. K. (Society for Range Management, 2015-03)
      Grasslands are highly imperiled as a result of widespread conversion for agriculture and alteration from human development. Remaining grasslands are susceptible to mismanagement, development and fragmentation, and variable weather associated with global climate change. Understanding the response of declining grassland species to these challenges will be important for informed conservation and management. We assessed Greater Prairie-Chicken (Tympanuchus cupido) survival and nest site selection in tallgrass prairie characterized by interacting fire and grazing disturbance and oil and gas infrastructure. We found that Greater Prairie-Chicken survival was most affected by weather variability (expressed in our models as solar radiation) while most other variables had little influence. Focal disturbance did not affect survival directly, but vegetation height, which is greatly influenced by fire and grazing processes, was positively associated with nest survival. Greater Prairie-Chickens chose nesting locations that maximized time post fire while minimizing tree cover and distance to leks. Future conservation efforts for Greater Prairie-Chickens should focus on variable fire regimens that create areas of residual biomass to increase vegetation height and potentially reduce the effects of solar radiation while decreasing woody vegetation that is avoided by nesting females. However, even the best management practices may prove to be futile in the southern Great Plains if climate change continues to create unfavorable nest survival conditions. Management that creates and maintains suitable nesting sites through the use of interacting fire and grazing should maximize the potential for high reproduction in years when local weather variables are favorable. © 2015 Society for Range Management. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.