Habitat Conservation
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Proactive Conservation for Working Lands

Lesser Prairie-Chicken Hen and Brood Habitat Use on Sand Shinnery Oak

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The structural attributes of shrubland communities may provide thermal refugia and protective cover necessary for wild animals to survive. During the summers of 2002 and 2003, we evaluated the thermal environment for lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus Ridgway) broods in southeast New Mexico across a complex landscape that included grazed sand shinnery oak (Quercus havardii Rydb.), ungrazed sand shinnery oak treated with tebuthiuron, sand dunes, cropland, and Conservation Reserve Program native grass plantings. Based on data from 257 brood locations and 53 random locations, lesser prairie-chicken broods selected locations based on sand shinnery oak dominance, with taller plant heights and more over-head cover, when temperatures exceeded 26.4uC than what was randomly available. Prairie chickens selected areas not treated with herbicide and these sites were often selected at a fine spatial scale. These data support other studies suggesting that there may be no justification of shrub control for lesser prairie-chicken conservation within the sand shinnery oak communities.

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