Abstract

Manuscript No. 1 Translocations of greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) have been attempted in 7 states and one Canadian province with very little success. To recover a small remnant population and test the efficacy of sage-grouse translocations, we captured and transported 137 adult female sage-grouse from 2 source populations to a release site in Strawberry Valley, Utah during March-April 2003-2005. The resident population of sage-grouse in Strawberry Valley was approximately 150 breeding birds prior to the release. We radiomarked each female and documented survival, movements, reproductive effort, flocking with resident grouse, and lek attendance. We used Program MARK to calculate annual survival of translocated females in the first year after release, which averaged 0.60 (95% CI = 0.515-0.681). Movements of translocated females were within current and historic sage-grouse habitat in Strawberry Valley, and we detected no grouse outside of the study area. Nesting propensity for first (newly translocated) and second (surviving) year females was 39% and 73%, respectively. Observed nest success of all translocated females during the study was 67%. By the end of their first year in Strawberry Valley, 100% of the living translocated sage-grouse were in flocks with resident sage-grouse. The translocated grouse attended the same lek as the birds with which they were grouped. In 2006, the peak male count for the only remaining active lek in Strawberry Valley was almost 4 times (135 M) the 6-year pretranslocation (1998 − 2003) average peak attendance of 36 males (range 24 – 50 M). Translocations can be an effective management tool to increase small populations of greater sage-grouse when conducted during the breeding season and before target populations have been extirpated. Manuscript No. 2 Nesting habitat of resident greater sage-grouse in extant populations across the species range has been thoroughly described in the literature, yet very little is known about the use of nesting habitat by translocated sage-grouse. In order to better understand nesting habitat selection by translocated sage-grouse in a new environment, we trapped grouse during the spring on and near leks of source populations. We placed each female in a cardboard box and translocated them overnight to the Strawberry Valley. Each female was fitted with a radio-transmitter and released near the lek where males were actively strutting. We monitored grouse for nesting activity. We documented nesting attempts, nest success, clutch size and embryo viability. We recorded data on habitat variables associated with nest sites and paired-random sites. We used logistic regression and an a priori information theoretic approach for modeling nest versus paired-random sites and successful versus unsuccessful nest sites. Our data suggested that crown area of the nest shrub and percent grass cover were the two variables that discriminated between nest and paired-random sites. Females that nested successfully selected sites with more total shrub canopy cover, intermediate size shrub crown area, a normal distribution of aspects, and with steeper slopes than unsuccessful nests. Translocated females selected suitable nesting habitat after being moved from source populations with differing habitats. Manuscript No. 3 Equivalence testing in the field of wildlife ecology has been underutilized. Mistakenly, many researchers have concluded that two groups are the same based on failure to reject a null hypothesis of no difference. We used equivalence testing to provide preliminary evidence that resident and translocated bird movements were similar. Translocations are becoming more prominent in the field of conservation biology as a wildlife management tool. We translocated greater sage grouse into a fragmented habitat in order to conserve the metapopulation. We placed radio-transmitters on resident and translocated female greater sage grouse and used the distance moved from the release site or lek as a measure of translocation success and/or site fidelity. If translocated birds did not show site fidelity, the translocations would be judged a failure. The distributions of resident and translocated sage grouse movements for both summer and winter seasons were significantly different, primarily due to differences in the proportions of specific habitat fragments used. Equivalence tests showed that site fidelity was statistically equivalent for translocated and resident grouse,when defined as a difference of ≤3 km, both in summer and winter. In particular, translocated females traveled no farther from the release site than resident females. Equivalence testing was the statistical tool used to determine equivalence of resident and translocated sage grouse movements and thus judge preliminary translocation success.

Degree

PhD

College and Department

Life Sciences; Plant and Wildlife Sciences

Rights

http://lib.byu.edu/about/copyright/

Date Submitted

2007-11-20

Document Type

Dissertation

Handle

http://hdl.lib.byu.edu/1877/etd2147

Keywords

translocation, greater sage-grouse, reproduction, nesting, equivalence testing, survival

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