Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Populations of common ravens (Corvus corax; ravens) have increased rapidly within sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) ecosystems between 1960 and 2020. Although ravens are native to North America, their population densities have expanded to levels that negatively influence the population dynamics of other wildlife species of conservation concern, such as greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) and desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii). For this reason, lethal removal, such as the application of the avicide DRC-1339, has been used to manage raven numbers at local scales and under certain circumstances. Because the relative effectiveness of DRC-1339 in reducing raven populations densities is not thoroughly understood, we completed 2 case studies using a before-after-control-impact experimental design of density estimates generated from point count data within a Bayesian hierarchical distance sampling framework. Specifically, we analyzed >16,000 point count surveys collected during 2009–2019 and split into 2 study designs covering multiple field sites within the Great Basin region. The first experiment evaluated intra-annual changes in density by comparing before and after treatment time periods within a single breeding season for multiple treatment regions compared to 2 control regions. The other experiment focused on inter-annual differences by comparing time periods across years before and after the onset of annual avicide application for a single treatment region compared to multiple control regions. Our models estimated a 100% probability of decline in density relative to control sites for both the intra- and inter-annual model designs. At treatment sites, expected densities of ravens varied but were reduced by 43% (95% CRI: 33–49%) and 54% (95% CRI: 24–71%) according to intra- and inter-annual analyses, respectively, whereas densities increased by 42% (95% CRI: 27–60%) and 15% (95% CRI: -17 to 58%) at control sites. Although population densities were reduced with treatments, trends indicated that sustained effort would likely be needed to maintain densities at acceptable levels within regions of interest. Effectively reducing the adverse effects of raven populations on other native species likely will depend on a variety of targeted management actions such as improving habitat quality for prey species, possibly reducing ravens’ population density, and treating the cause of increased raven abundance to reduce future carrying capacity and prevent rebounds.

Additional Files

O'NeilEtAl Appendix.docx (20 kB)
Appendix tables