Date of Award:

2015

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Wildland Resources

Advisor/Chair:

Michael R. Conover

Abstract

My research focused on common raven (Corvus corax; hereafter raven) winter ecology and removal, and how raven removal aids Greater sage-grouse (Centrocerus urophasiansu; hereafter sage-grouse) populations. Raven winter ecology in the western US has not been described in detail. I researched raven use of landfills for foraging and raven use of anthropogenic structures for roosting, as well as dispersal of ravens in the spring. In all 22% of radio-marked ravens (n=73) used landfills during the day, and 68%(n=73) roosted at anthropogenic roost sites during the evening. Correlations between landfill and roost counts of ravens were stronger (0.4>r<0.7) when the distance between these sites was <15 km, and smaller (r<0.3) when this distance >20 km. In the spring, ravens dispersed, on average, 38 km from landfills where they were caught.

Large congregations of ravens at a few sites in winter may present opportunities to initiate raven population reduction methods to alleviate later problems. I analyzed raven survival and behaviour when USDA/APHIS Wildlife Services (WS) removed ravens using DRC-1339 during winter months. The number of ravens killed annually was 7-34% of the local population. Ravens did not avoid landfills, yet they switched roosts more frequently after an application of the toxicant.

Raven removal improves sage-grouse nest success; however, data were not available to examine how raven removal improves sage-grouse abundance. I analyzed changes in raven density with regard to WS removal, and then related these changes with changes in sage-grouse lek counts the following year. Raven densities decreased by 50% from 2008-2014 where WS conducted removal programs. Sage-grouse lek counts improved in area where WS lowered raven abundance, in comparison to areas farther away, during the latter half of the study (2013-2015), when WS removal efforts intensified. Thereafter, a 10% decline in raven abundance was associated with a 2% increase in sage-grouse lek counts. Overall, ravens in souther Wyoming used anthropogenic resources during the winter, and removal of ravens at these locations, combined with removal in the spring, minimally impacted raven populations annually and was associated with increases in sage-grouse abundance.

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