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Tuesday, January 26 • 1:40pm - 2:00pm
Lesser Prairie-Chicken Habitat and Movement Response to Patch-Burn Grazing

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AUTHORS: Jonathan Lautenbach*, Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Division of Biology, Kansas State University; Joseph Lautenbach, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians; David Haukos, U.S. Geological Survey, Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Division of Biology, Kansas State University

ABSTRACT: The lesser prairie-chicken is a species of prairie-grouse that has experienced a dramatic population decline during the last two decades. Multiple reasons have been cited for these recent decline including, but not limited to, habitat mismanagement and the loss of ecological drivers, including fire. Because of different habitat needs throughout their life history, the lesser prairie-chicken can be a difficult species to manage. Few studies have explored the influence of fire on lesser prairie-chicken habitat and no studies have investigated the impacts of fire on their habitat and movement response. We evaluated the effects of prescribed fire implemented in a patch-burn grazing system on lesser prairie-chicken habitat and movements. We measured habitat characteristics and female lesser prairie-chicken movements across a time since fire gradient (year-of-fire, 12-24 months post-fire, and >24 months post-fire). We found that habitat characteristics varied across the time since fire gradient. Year-of-fire patches had the greatest amount of bare ground and litter cover whereas >24 months post-fire patches had the most grass cover and the least bare ground. Additionally we found that >24 months post-fire patches had 2x taller vegetation than year-of-fire patches. During the nesting period, we recorded female lesser prairie-chickens using areas >24 months post-fire more frequently than year-of-fire and 12-24 months post-fire patches. Additionally, 93% of nests were in >24 months post-fire patches. During the brood-rearing period female lesser prairie-chickens used year-of-fire and 12-24 months post-fire patches more frequently than >24 months post-fire patches. Patch-burn grazing creates a heterogeneous landscape required lesser prairie-chickens to fulfill their life history. Additionally, lesser prairie-chickens responded to patch-burn grazing in an expected manner, using areas with greater time-since-fire for nesting and more recently burned areas for brood rearing.

Tuesday January 26, 2016 1:40pm - 2:00pm EST