Habitat use and activity budgets on Gunnison's Prairie Dogs

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					Activity budgets of Gunnison’s Prairie
 Dogs in the early Monsoon Season




           Tierney Adamson
Introduction: Prairie Dogs a Keystone Species




•   In grassland ecosystems where they are found, prairie dogs increase species
    diversity, enhance nutritive value of some plants for other herbivores, provide an
    abundant food source for predators, and construct burrow systems that afford
    shelter for many wildlife species.

•   Scientists studying prairie dogs in mixed and shortgrass prairies have estimated
    that at least 208 animal species are associated with prairie dog colonies.
Introduction: Prairie Dog
Population Decline
• Prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.) were
  once among the most numerous and
  widespread herbivores in North
  American grasslands.

• Human activities, such as habitat
  destruction, poisoning efforts, ‘varmint
  hunting’ and plague have significantly
  reduced prairie dog populations to less
  than 2% of their historical range.
Introduction:
Gunnison’s Prairie Dogs on Sevilleta
                            •     Interviews with retired Animal
                                  Control Officer John Ford
                                  established former distribution
                                  prior to extermination in 60’s
                                  & 70’s.

                            •     Before this project, 2 small
                                  colonies existed along
                                  northern (Nunn Flat) &
                                  southern (South Gate) fence
                                  lines on east side of Sevilleta
                                  NWR.




                                                      Nunn Flat


                     South Gate
  Gunnison’s Prairie Dogs on Sevilleta:
  McKenzie Flat Re-Establishment Project
2 Objectives:
• Return a keystone vertebrate
  species to the interior of Sevilleta
  NWR:
   – ~350 individuals released at
     McKenzie Flats site
• Ecological research:
   – the effects of Gunnison’s
     prairie dogs on a grassland
     ecosystem from which they
     were extirpated ~30 years
     past.
   – Individuals released into
     100m x 100m plots set-up
     with artificial burrows and
     permanent vegetation
     monitoring stations and paired
     w/ 100m x 100m control plots.
Current Study: Seasonal activity
budgets of Gunnison’s Prairie Dogs
• The overall purpose of my
  research is to determine the
  variation in seasonal activity
  budgets for Gunnison’s prairie
  dogs at the McKenzie Flats
  colony on Sevilleta and
  compare those activity budgets
  with climate variables.

• Today I will present summary
  results for individual activity
  budget observations
  conducted during the summer
  monsoon period, June 28 –
  July 18, 2006.
               Background Material
• Whereas I am studying Gunnison’s prairie dogs (Cynomys
  gunnisoni), most previous prairie dog research has
  considered black- or white-tailed prairie dogs.
• J. Hoogland conducted extensive black-tailed prairie dog
  behavioral research; his insight and field methods are utilized
  for the current study.
• H. Adams (MS, NMSU) examined seasonal activity budgets of
  black-tailed prairie dogs in southern NM; her methods are
  adapted for the current study following Altmann…
• J. Altmann provided the behavioral observation guidelines
  which ensure non-biased individual observations through
  time.
     Predicted Activity Budgets
• Prairie dogs should be
  more active during the
  cooler parts of the day.
• If a prairie dog spends
  most of its time foraging
  then it should travel
  longer distances. If it
  spends most of its time in
  vigilant actions then you
  would expect that it
  wouldn’t travel as much
  because it was afraid of
  predators.
                      Study Methods
• Catch and mark individual
  prairie dogs.
   – 100 Tomahawk live traps
     set for 5 nights on and
     around North Treatment
     Plot.
   – Note sex, weight and paint
     numbers on individuals
     with Nyanzol D permanent
     dye so I can tell individuals
     apart during observations.
                                        Study Methods
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               Study Methods
• Establish 15’ observation tower (Tierney Box).
                Study Methods
• In a behavior study, guidelines have to be set in
  order to best eliminate bias.

• Sessions were divided up into 2 hour segments,
  with general scans every 30 minutes. Prairie
  dogs themselves were studied for 5 minutes
  each.

• The marked individuals were watched from the
  tower with binoculars.
       How do I tell individuals?
Mark             Sex   Weight         "Names"

            51   F              520   Ash

            52   F              630   Renee

            53   F              485   Carrie

            54   F              470   Fred

            55   F              540   Amelia

            56   F              630   Laura

            1    M              590   Scott

            2    M              750   Jay

            3    M              660   Don

            57   F              610   Brenda

            58   F              640   Caitlin

            4    M              710   Andrew

            59   F              635   Jennifer

            5    M              690   Mike

            6    M              630   Alex

            60   F              520   Cathy
                                      Life as a pdog…
                                                                                      Activities
                                                                                      BF-Bipedal foraging
                                                                                      BV- Bipedal vigilance
                                                                                      QF-Quadrapedal foraging
                                                                                      QV-Quadrapedal vigilance
                                                                                      AB-Amicable Behaviors
                                                                    Male pdogs
                                                                                      R-Running
                                      Pdog Activity Budgets
                                                                    Female pdogs      DIG-Digging
      70                                                            General pdogs     GR-Self grooming
      60
                                                                                      RST-Resting above ground
      50
                                                                                      RIB-Resting in burrow
Percentage




      40
                                                                                      TB-Territorial Behaviors
      30
                                                                                      W-Walking
      20
                                                                                      L-Lost individual
      10
                                                                                      NB-Nesting Behavior
             0
                                                                                      HOV-Head out of burrow
                 BV   BF   QV   QF   AB   R   DIG GR RST RIB   TB   W    L   NB HOV
                                                                                           vigilance
                                              Activity
                                     Foraging and Vigilance

                                                                     General                                                                            General
                                 Foraging Activity per Session                                                     Vigilance Activity per Session
                                                                     Male                                                                               Male

                                                                     Female                          600                                                Female
                      2500




                                                                               Time spent vigilant
                                                                                                     500
Time spent foraging




                      2000
                                                                                                     400
                      1500                                                                           300

                      1000                                                                           200

                                                                                                     100
                      500
                                                                                                      0
                        0                                                                                  1   2       3     4      5      6   7    8   9
                             1   2   3     4      5      6   7   8   9                                                           Session
                                               Session
                                How far will they go?


                              Foraging vs. Distance                                                  Vigilance vs. Distance
                                                      Pdog individual
                                                                                                                              Individual pdog
               90                                     Linear (Pdog                     90
               80                                     individual)                      80                                     Linear (Individual
               70                                                                      70                                     pdog)
Distance (m)




                                                                        Distance (m)
               60                                                                      60
               50                                                                      50
               40                                                                      40
               30                                                                      30
               20                                                                      20
               10                                                                      10
                0                                                                       0
                    0   100         200         300    400                                  0   50   100       150          200       250          300
                                  Time (s)                                                             Vigilance Time (s)
                                         Effects of Climate
                           Number of pdogs vs. Temperature                                                                                   Number of pdogs vs. Wind Speed
                                                                               Pdog individuals                                                                                 Pdog individuals
                  10                                                                                                           10
Number of pdogs




                                                                                                             Number of pdogs
                  8                                                                                                             8

                  6                                                                                                             6

                  4                                                                                                             4

                  2                                                                                                             2

                  0                                                                                                             0
                       0      10         20                               30        40                                              0       2         4       6       8    10        12
                                     Temp (in C)                                                                                                      Wind Speed (km/hr)




                                                                               Number of pdogs vs. Relative Humidity
                                                                                                                                        Pdog individuals
                                                                     10
                                                   Number of pdogs




                                                                     8

                                                                     6

                                                                     4

                                                                     2

                                                                     0
                                                                          0         20            40                           60            80
                                                                                         Relative humidity (%)
     Other Animal Interactions




• Other animals interact with the prairie dogs out
  on the NT site.
• Pronghorn, Rabbits, Spotted Ground Squirrel,
  Swainson’s Hawk, and Ferruginous Hawk have
  been seen.
               Discussion
• Further study required.
• Nevertheless, we now can tell a little bit
  about what the prairie dogs are doing. It
  appears that there are prairie dogs still in
  their burrows during the day.
• Prairie dogs have been seen to travel
  either great distances or not at all.
             Further research
• Activity budgets must be determined over each
  season of the year in order to consider seasonal
  variation in above ground activity and how
  activity might relate to climatic variables
• Would also be good to break down foraging
  activity by plant species consumed.
• There is need to reconsider distance measures:
  – We need to get at effort and risk put towards foraging
    and general above ground activity over time and
    current measure may fall short.
           Acknowledgments
•   Sevilleta LTER
•   FWS Staff
•   Mike Friggens
•   Scott Collins
•   Ana Davidson
•   Jennifer Johnson
•   House 1

				
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