The efficacy of providing water sources in desert ecosystems to enhance wildlife populations and their distribution continues to be debated among wildlife managers. Some argue wildlife water developments provide a direct benefit to numerous species, while others point to the potential that wildlife water developments alter competition or predation dynamics and disrupt native communities. Additionally, some have argued that the availability of water may become more important to wildlife in the face of vegetative changes associated with expansive fire and conversion of shrub or forest lands to grasslands which alters the thermal landscape available to animals. I evaluated the influence of free water and expansive fire on aspects of the ecology (habitat selection, space use and survival) of Gambel's quail (Callipepla gambelii) in the Mojave Desert of southwestern Washington County, Utah, USA. I attached radio-transmitters to a total of 206 quail (74 adult males, 67 adult females, and 65 juvenile males and females) and monitored them from 2010 – 2013. For chapter one of my thesis, I evaluated the response of marked quail to removal of access to water in a before-after controlled impact (BACI) design. I found little influence of water removal on survival as models with this effect received little to no support and overlap in confidence intervals occurred between treatment and reference groups. Likewise, the distance from the center of the summer home range to the nearest water source did not differ by year (F = 1.63; P = 0.19) or treatment (removal of water) (F = 0.89; P = 0.35) and pairwise comparisons of distances for the treatment by year interaction were not significant (P > 0.05 in all cases). For size of home range area, however, I found strong effects for year (F = 3.07; P = 0.03), treatment (F = 4.67; P = 0.03), and their interaction (F = 7.61; P = 0.01). Mean home range size for quail was 6.10 and 1.63 km2 for animals in the reference area during treatment years (2012 and 2013) compared to 5.07 and 8.99 km2 for quail in the treatment area during 2012 and 2013, respectively. Removal of water influenced size of summer home ranges, but not the location of the summer home range or survival rates. I hypothesize that removal of access to free water required quail in the treatment area to expand their space use patterns in 2013 in order to satisfy water demands via pre-formed water. For chapter two of my thesis, I evaluated habitat selection of Gambel's quail in relation to vegetation type, topographic features, water, and recent (4-7 years) expansive fire. Gambel's quail selected areas of decreased roughness which were closer to water and fire boundaries than random locations. I found that quail preferred moderate (< 10 degrees) hillsides and ravine bottoms. I found no evidence that quail avoided the burned areas within their home ranges and 80% of their telemetry points were <500 meters from a burn edge. The Beaver Dam slope topography strongly influenced habitat selection for Gambel's quail and they showed strong selection for water sources during summer months. These data also suggest that wildfires have had limited impact on habitat selection by this species, four to seven years later.
College and Department
Life Sciences; Plant and Wildlife Sciences
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Skidmore, Wesley R., "Ecology of Gambel's Quail (Callipepla gambelii) in Relation to Water and Fire in Utah's Mojave Desert" (2016). All Theses and Dissertations. 6334.
Gambel's quail, water, fire, radio-transmitters, Mojave Desert