Date of Award:
Master of Science (MS)
S. Nicole Frey
Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus; hereafter sage-grouse) numbers have declined throughout the western US and are considered a species of concern in most of the eleven states that are within their range. Sage-grouse habitats have been reduced by approximately 44% since European settlement of the Western United States began (Miller et al. 2011). Loss of habitat has contributed to an average decline of sage-grouse populations by 33% across the range (Connelly and Braun 1997). To expand our knowledge of this species, I monitored 16 radio-collared sage-grouse captured from four leks in Hamlin Valley, Utah, USA in 2011 and 2012 to determine habitat use. The Hamlin Valley population was primarily one-stage migratory but non-migratory behaviors were also observed. Birds from at least one of the leks used seasonal habitats in neighboring Nevada.
Sage-grouse evolved in habitats where infrastructure (e.g. vertical structures) was not common. Introduction of infrastructure, such as fences in their habitat, can cause direct mortality via collision but may also indirectly influence productivity by increasing artificial perches for avian predators (e.g. golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) , red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis), and common ravens (Corvus corax). This research focused on collision rates and increased potential for avian predation on two small populations on the southern portion of the range of current occupied sage-grouse habitat in southwestern vi Utah. During 2011-2012, over 450 km of fences were surveyed for signs of collision and use by avian predators during all seasons (breeding, fall migration, and winter). No sage-grouse collisions were observed suggesting that management for sage-grouse in small populations may be better focused on improving habitat and reducing other causes of mortality which may be more prevalent. Fence post width (i.e. the perching surface) was the best predictor of use as perch by avian predators. Additionally, areas farther from other natural perches, with a low density of surrounding vegetation, and fences constructed along defined habitat edges were used by avian predators more frequently. Results of this study suggest that managers should construct fences with small widths to deter avian predators and care should be taken to maintain contiguous vegetation on either side of the posts while maintaining low shrub density.
McPherron, Heather Hedden, "Seasonal Distribution of Sage-Grouse in Hamlin Valley, Utah and the Effect of Fences on Grouse and Avian Predators" (2017). All Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 6682.
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