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Lesser prairie-chicken fence collision risk across its northern distribution

July 11, 2016

Livestock fences have been hypothesized to significantly contribute to mortality of lesser prairie-chickens (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus); however, quantification of mortality due to fence collisions is lacking across their current distribution. Variation in fence density, landscape composition and configuration, and land use could influence collision risk of lesser prairie-chickens. We monitored fences within 3 km of known leks during spring and fall and surveyed for signs of collision occurrence within 20 m of fences in 6 study sites in Kansas and Colorado, USA during 2013 and 2014. We assessed mortality locations of radio-tagged birds (n = 286) for evidence of fence collisions and compared distance to fence relative to random points. Additionally, we quantified locations, propensity, and frequency of fences crossed by lesser prairie-chickens. We tested for landscape and vegetative characteristics that influenced fence-cross propensity and frequency of global positioning system (GPS)-marked birds. A minimum of 12,706 fence crossings occurred by GPS-marked lesser prairie-chickens. We found 3 carcasses and 12 additional possible instances of evidence of collision during >2,800 km of surveyed fences. We found evidence for a single suspected collision based on carcass evidence for 148 mortalities of transmittered birds. Mortality locations of transmittered birds were located at distances from fences 15% farther than expected at random. Our data suggested minimal biological significance and indicated that propensity and frequency of fence crossings were random processes. Lesser prairie-chickens do not appear to be experiencing significant mortality risk due to fence collisions in Kansas and Colorado. Focusing resources on other limiting factors (i.e., habitat quality) has greater potential for impact on population demography than fence marking and removal.

Publication Year 2016
Title Lesser prairie-chicken fence collision risk across its northern distribution
DOI 10.1002/jwmg.1073
Authors Samantha G. Robinson, David A. Haukos, Reid T. Plumb, Christian A. Hagen, James C. Pitman, Joseph M. Lautenbach, Daniel S. Sullins, John D. Kraft, Jonathan D. Lautenbach
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Wildlife Management
Index ID 70174396
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Atlanta