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Habitat selection and water dependency of feral burros in the Mojave Desert, California, USA

June 5, 2023

Expansion of feral burro (Equus asinus) populations across the southwestern United States is causing human–wildlife conflicts including rangeland degradation, competition with livestock and native species, and burro–vehicle collisions. On the Fort Irwin National Training Center (NTC) in California, feral burros interfere with military training and are involved in vehicle collisions and other conflicts (e.g., burros blocking access to buildings). Limited data on burro movements and resource use poses a challenge for the development of management plans and mitigation strategies. We estimated home range size, second- and third-order seasonal resource selection, and water dependency of 10 adult female feral burros fitted with global positioning system (GPS) collars on the NTC from November 2015 to April 2017. Mean 95% autocorrelated kernel home range size of female burros (253.9 ± 30.7 km2 [SE]) did not differ among seasons or between burros that resided close to or far from urban areas. Burros selected areas closer to water in all seasons and at both spatial scales, but selection was stronger in the dry season and at the landscape scale. When available, burros strongly selected for areas closer to urban areas. Burros consistently selected for areas with green forage and at lower elevations, but selection for other topographical features was variable. Water use patterns were consistent with the resource selection results. Burros visited water sources twice as often (every 22.2 ± 6.3 hr) during the hot-dry season (Apr–Oct) compared to the cool-wet seasons (Nov–Mar; 2015: 45.9 ± 21.0; 2016: 39.7 ± 9.3 hr). Our results suggest that urban areas, and resources therein, and water sources have the biggest influence on burro resource selection, and management plans could focus mitigation programs on these areas.

Publication Year 2023
Title Habitat selection and water dependency of feral burros in the Mojave Desert, California, USA
DOI 10.1002/jwmg.22429
Authors Talesha Karish, Gary W. Roemer, David K. Delaney, Craig D. Reddell, James W. Cain
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Wildlife Management
Index ID 70254885
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Seattle