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Reducing predation by common ravens on desert tortoises in the Mojave and Colorado Deserts

July 18, 2002

Conflicts between humans and natural populations often result from habitat fragmentation and
degradation that accompanies human activities. Common raven populations in the Mojave
Desert have benefited by human-provided resources; they've expanded precipitously in recent
years. Because ravens prey on juveniles of the threatened desert tortoise, they have become the
focus of management concerns to help recover dwindling tortoise populations. I have outlined
herein a series of management recommendations designed to reduce raven predation on desert
tortoises thereby facilitating juvenile tortoise recruitment into the population of reproductive
adults. The recommendations are based on the best available scientific information and are
intended to provide a basis for a long-term reduction in raven impacts.

The recommendations fall into four basic categories. (1) Modify anthropogenic sources of food, water, and nesting substrates to reduce their use by ravens. This includes modifying landfill operations, septage containment practices, livestock management, and other commercial and private practices that help facilitate raven survival and dispersal by providing food and water. Most of these measures are long-term actions deigned to reduce the carrying capacity of the desert for ravens. This action is critical and must be done over very large areas. (2)Lethal removal of ravens by shooting or euthanizing following live trapping. Specific ravens known to prey on tortoises would be targeted as well as all ravens found foraging within specific high-priority desert tortoise management zones (e.g., Desert Tortoise Natural Areas, DTNA). These actions would primarily be deployed on a short-term emergency basis to give specific tortoise populations a necessary boost until other measures become fully implemented and achieve their goals. (3) Conduct research on raven ecology, raven behavior, and methods to reduce raven predation on tortoises. Results of these studies would be used to design future phases of the raven management program. (4) All actions should be approached within an adaptive management framework. As such monitor, actions should be designed as experiments so that monitoring of actions will yield reliable and scientifically sound results. Coordinating and oversight teams should be convened to facilitate cooperation and coordination among agencies and to ensure that the actions are being implemented effectively.

Recommendations made herein were developed to help recover tortoise populations by reducing raven predation on juvenile tortoises. If the recommendations made are implemented in concert with actions reducing other causes of mortality, ill health, and lowered reproductive output, they should aid in the long-term recovery of desert tortoise populations. Many important aspects of raven population dynamics, raven predation on tortoises, and how to manage raven populations and behavior are as yet unknown. Because of this, any raven management program must be implemented within an adaptive management framework. Doing so would allow for sufficient flexibility to modify the program as new information is gained.

Publication Year 2002
Title Reducing predation by common ravens on desert tortoises in the Mojave and Colorado Deserts
Authors William I. Boarman
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Other Report
Index ID 70006434
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse