Date of Award:

1992

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Natural Resources

Department name when degree awarded

Wildlife Ecology

Advisor/Chair:

Thomas C. Edwards

Abstract

In cases where refuge acquisition or captive breeding programs are not practical or justifiable, wild caught animals are frequently translocated into areas of suitable habitat. Such management programs seldom are designed to account for the behavioral responses of translocated animals to an unfamiliar habitat, breakup of social units, and/or interactions with existing social units in the new habitat. Ongoing efforts to translocate threatened Utah prairie dogs (Cynomys parvidens) from areas where conflicts with other land uses are occurring to public land sites have met with limited success. This could be due, in part, to behavioral responses associated with disrupting social units and placing animals in an unfamiliar environment.

The purpose of this research was to test a series of hypotheses regarding the behavioral responses of Utah prairie dogs to translocation. Focal animal sampling was used to estimate the durations and frequencies of five behavioral variables and five interaction types at four treatments: control, new site, supplemental site, and new population. In Chapter 1, activity budgets were compared among control animals, animals released into a new site versus a supplemental site, and animals already present at a supplemental site. The objective was to evaluate the relative effects of new and supplemental translocations and the effects of translocations on resident animals. In Chapter 2, the frequencies of interactions were compared among these same treatments to evaluate the effects of translocation on the sociality of Utah prairie dogs as reflected by changes in the frequencies of greeting displays, dominance/subordinance displays, and amicable and agonistic interactions. Chapter 3 compares the activity budgets of animals released at a site containing natural burrows (i.e., new population) and animals released into a site containing artificial burrows (i.e., new site) to a control. Habitat measurements for these treatments were also compared to evaluate the importance of habitat characteristics typical of prairie dog colonies to translocated animals. Hotelling's T2 analyses were used to compare behavioral durations between treatments and log-linear analyses were use to compare behavioral frequencies among treatments. Activity budgets were altered by translocation through tradeoffs between the amount of time spent foraging, being vigilant, exploring the unfamiliar habitat, and minimizing conspicuousness. Predicted changes in interactions frequencies as a result of translocations were not observed.

Activity budgets of animals released into the site containing natural burrows did not differ from those of control animals . The most important behavioral consideration is the effects of burrow and habitat characteristics in providing centers of activity and effective predator detection and avoidance.

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