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Lesser Prairie-Chicken Habitat Use, Survival, and Recruitment in Kansas

Investigators:
Joseph Lautenbach

Project Supervisors:
Dr. David Haukos
Jim Pitman
Dr. David Dahlgren

Funding:
Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks,
and Tourism

Cooperators:
Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks,
and Tourism
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Great Plains LCC
USDA Forest Service

Location:
Throughout Kansas

Completion:
May 2017

Status: Initiation Fall 2012


Lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus)

Objectives:
Identify lesser prairie-chicken (LPCH) population demography including survival, nest success, and recruitment for populations in a variety of habitats

Identify LPCH seasonal habitat selection with emphasis on nesting and brood site selection in each habitat type

Identify adult LPCH weekly, monthly, and seasonal movements and homes ranges in each habitat

Evaluate the impacts of energy development and other anthropogenic activities on LPCH habitat use, movements, and survival

Compare vital rates among populations residing within each habitat type

Model those demographic data to predict future population trajectories.

Identify the effect of grassland patch size, habitat fragmentation, and level of connectivity on vital rates of LPCH populations.

Conduct a risk assessment to evaluate the relative effects of potential limiting factors for populations residing within each habitat type

Evaluate potential radio-mark handicap between 2 radio transmitter types.

Identify daily survival of lesser prairie-chicken chicks within mixed grass prairie and/or grassland mosaic habitats consisting of short-grass prairie and conservation reserve program grasslands.

Progress and Results:
Lesser prairie-chickens (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus; hereafter LPC) currently exist in scattered populations in Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas, and New Mexico. Each population is associated with unique habitat types and patch sizes; experiencing different population trajectories from severe decline to relatively stable or, rarely, increasing. There are a number of potentially interacting factors impacting LPC populations including reduction of habitat and connectivity due to grassland and shrubland conversion to row-crop agriculture; energy development including oil/natural gas drilling, wind farms, ethanol and other biofuels, and potentially solar fields; infrastructure related to energy development including transmission lines, substations, roads, meteorological towers, and disturbance due to frequent human presence; unmanaged grazing; suppression of natural fire; increasing intensity and duration of drought; extensive use of herbicides and insecticides; high-density livestock fencing; and invasive vegetation. Because of the fragmentation of the LPC range and subsequent isolation of populations, it is necessary to study each population to generate inference regarding population demography (e.g., survival, nest success, recruitment), habitat selection, and seasonal movements as well as evaluate relative influence of potential limiting factors. We propose to conduct a telemetry study to evaluate LPC habitat selection, seasonal movements, population demography, and response to energy development in three populations in Kansas. The populations represent different habitats and trajectories. In southwest Kansas (Morton and Stanton counties), LPC have been in a severe population decline with isolated areas of relatively stable populations. This area is represented by short-grass prairie and sand sagebrush (Artemisia filifolia) habitats that are grazed by livestock. Pastures are large with relatively low fence density. Much of the occupied portion of this area is on U.S. Forest Service National Grasslands (Cimarron NG). Oil and gas exploration is ongoing in many locations. The environment is semi-arid and currently experiencing an extreme drought. The population of south-central Kansas (Barber, Comanche, Kiowa, Clark, and Meade counties) is relatively stable. Habitats in the area are predominantly mid-grass, with shrub and woody cover in the absence of natural or prescribed fire. Landuse is primarily livestock grazing with a relatively high fence density. Patch burning is becoming a common land management technique in the area. Oil and gas development also is present. The area has high potential for wind farm development and transmission line installation. The population of north-west Kansas (Sherman, Thomas, Logan, and Gove counties) is expanding both in terms of range and numbers. The region is predominantly row-crop agriculture and lands enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Livestock grazing occurs primarily on winter wheat. Fence density is intermediate between the previously described study sites but is primarily temporary electric rather than the permanent 4-5 strand barbed wire. The CRP locations are dominated by native species planted to provide permanent cover on highly erodible soils. In addition, many CRP fields have wildlife waterers installed (guzzlers) as a conservation practice. We propose to capture, track, and maintain a sample size of a minimum of 30-40 satellite radio tagged hens per year for 4 years in each study population. We anticipate having a sample size of approximately 150 hen LPCs during the course of the study, with each hen providing data for an average of 18 months. Relevant vegetation measures will be taken at each nest and brood site as well as locations during the remainder of each throughout the study to evaluate habitat selection as it relates to survival. Home ranges will be calculated for each LPC during each season. Resource selection functions will be used to evaluate habitat use relative to availability. Vital rates will be used in matrix models to determine the relative influence of these rates on population rate of change.

Products:
Joseph Lautenbach, Reid Plumb, David Haukos and James Pitman. 2014. Regional differences in nest site location of lesser prairie-chickens in Kansas. Graduate Student Research Forum, Division of Biology, Kansas State University.

Lautenbach, J., R. Plumb, D. Haukos, and J. Pitman. 2014. Nest Site Location by Lesser Prairie-Chickens in Kansas and Colorado. Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference, Kansas City, MO. Paper.

Lautenbach, J., R. Plumb, D. Haukos, and J. Pitman. 2014. Differences in successful and unsuccessful nests of lesser prairie-chickens in Kansas and Colorado. Kansas Natural Resources Conference, Wichita, KS. Paper.

Lautenbach, J., R. Plumb, D. Haukos, and J. Pitman. 2013. Regional variation in nest success of lesser prairie-chickens in Kansas and Colorado. Biennial meeting of the Prairie Grouse Technical Council, Crookston, MN.

Lautenbach, J., R. Plumb, D. Haukos, and J. Pitman. 2013. Factors affecting brood and chick survival of lesser prairie-chickens in Kansas and Colorado. Biennial meeting of the Prairie Grouse Technical Council, Crookston, MN.