Date of Award:

8-2013

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Wildland Resources

Committee Chair(s)

Michael R. Conover, Shandra Nicole Frey

Committee

Michael R. Conover

Committee

Shandra Nicole Frey

Committee

David N. Koons

Committee

Terry A. Messmer

Committee

Wayne A. Wutrsbaugh

Abstract

My research was focused on greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus; hereafter "sage-grouse") nest-site selection, nest success, and hen survival in relation to avian predators. The trade-off between using habitat and avoiding predators is a common decision for prey species including sage-grouse. In Chapter 2, I compared avian predator densities at sage-grouse nest and brood locations to random locations. Sage-grouse were located where densities of small, medium, and large avian predators were 65-68% less than random locations.

The effects of anthropogenic and landscape features on habitat use of sage-grouse hens have not been evaluated relative to avian predator densities. In Chapter 3, I compared anthropogenic and landscape features and avian predator densities among sage-grouse locations (nest, early-brood, late-brood) and random locations. I found sage-grouse hens chose locations with lower avian predator densities compared to random locations, and selected locations farther away from anthropogenic and landscape features.

Depredation of sage-grouse nests can be an influential factor limiting their productivity. Predator removal has been simultaneously proposed and criticized as a potential mitigation measure for low reproductive rates of sage-grouse. In Chapter 4, I hypothesized that sage-grouse nest success would be greater in areas where Wildlife Services lowered common raven (Corvus corax: hereafter "raven") density. I found that Wildlife Services decreased raven density by 61% during 2008-2011 but I did not detect a direct improvement to sage-grouse nest success. However, sage-grouse nest success was 22% when ravens were detected within 550 m of a sage-grouse nest and 41% when no raven was detected within 550 m. In Chapter 5, I assessed interactive effects of corvid densities relative to anthropogenic and landscape features on sage-grouse nest success. I found that sage-grouse nest success was positively correlated with rugged habitat.

Survival of breeding-age birds is the most important demographic parameter driving sage-grouse abundance. In Chapter 6, I evaluated the effect of raptor densities, proximity to anthropogenic and landscape features, and hen behavior on survival of sage-grouse hens. I found that sage-grouse hen survival was negatively correlated with golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) density, proximity to anthropogenic and landscape features, and hen parental investment (nesting and brood-rearing).

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