Great Basin Naturalist


We measured predation on 120 artificial sage grouse (Centrarcus urophasianus) nests in montane sagebrush grassland in northern Utah. We examined nests in areas that had been chained and seeded 25 years previously (treated areas) and in areas that were untreated. Predation rates of artificial nests were higher in areas of untreated sagebrush, even though these areas had greater sagebrush cover, taller shrubs, and greater horizontal plant cover. These results differ from those previously hypothesized for treated sagebrush habitat and may reflect a greater abundance of other potential prey species, especially lagomorphs, in untreated areas that attracted greater densities of predators. In addition, over 80% of nests were depredated by mammals, which hunt using olfaction and are less likely than avian predators to be affected by nest cover. We conclude that, after treated sagebrush has recovered to some degree, predation rates of Sage Grouse nests may be lower in treated sagebrush. Consequently, factors other than nest predation (e.g., winter food, thermal cover, insects, perennial forb abundance) may be more important reasons for preserving mature sagebrush stands for Sage Grouse.