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Over the last half century, common raven (Corvus corax; raven) populations have increased in abundance across much of North America. Ravens are generalist predators known to depredate the eggs and young of several sensitive species. Quantifying raven population increases at multiple spatial scales across North America will help wildlife resource managers identify areas where population increases present the greatest risk to species conservation. We used a hierarchical Bayesian modeling approach to analyze trends of standardized raven counts from 1966 to 2018 using Breeding Bird Survey data within each Level I and II ecoregion of the United States and Canada. We also compared raven abundance within and outside the distributions of 9 sensitive or endangered species. Although we found substantial evidence that raven populations have increased across North America, populations varied in growth rates and relative abundances among regions. We found 73% of Level I (11/15) and II (25/34) ecoregions demonstrated positive annual population growth rates ranging from 0.2–9.4%. We found higher raven abundance inside versus outside the distributions of 7 of the 9 sensitive species included in our analysis. Gunnison sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus) had the highest discrepancy, with 293% more ravens within compared to outside of their range, followed by greater sandhill crane (Antigone canadensis tabida; 280%), and greater sage-grouse (C. urophasianus; 204%). Only 2 species, least tern (Sternula antillarum) and piping plover (Charadrius melodus), indicated lower raven abundance within relative to outside their distributions. Our findings will help wildlife resource managers identify regional trends in abundance of ravens and anticipate which sensitive species are at greatest risk from elevated raven populations. Future research directed at identifying the underlying regional drivers of these trends could help elucidate the most appropriate and responsive management actions and, thereby, guide the development of raven population management plans to mitigate impacts to sensitive species.
Harju, Seth M.; Coates, Peter S.; Dettenmaier, Seth J.; Dinkins, Jonathan B.; Jackson, Pat J.; and Chenaille, Michael P.
"Estimating Trends of Common Raven Populations in North America, 1966–2018,"
Human–Wildlife Interactions: Vol. 15:
3, Article 5.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/hwi/vol15/iss3/5
Additional FilesHarju et al. Raven Trends_draft_v2.1__Supplemental Material_FINAL_USGS_edits_clean.docx (363 kB)
Updated Suppl. Mat. - added final MS title