Potential Effects of GPS Transmitters on Greater Sage-Grouse Survival in a Post-Fire Landscape
22 October 2018Foster, Lee; Dugger, Katie; Hagen, Christian; Budeau, David
Rigorous monitoring and evaluation of wildlife population performance because of management or disturbance often relies upon the handling and marking of animals. Such studies must assume that marking animals does not affect their behavior or demography. We examined vital rates of greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) post wildfire in southeastern Oregon, USA. We observed extremely high mortality rates early in the study and questioned if our Global Positioning Systems (GPS) transmitters were negatively affecting survival of adult greater sage-grouse. Thus, in situ we captured and randomly assigned additional grouse to either a GPS or VHF transmitter and examine patterns of mortality and estimated survival to evaluate if there were in fact transmitter effects on this important vital rate. Our results indicated that regardless of instrument type large wildfire had negative effects on monthly survival the first year after the fire. However, point estimates indicated that greater sage-grouse fitted with GPS transmitters had approximately 5% lower annual survival than VHF marked birds, but although there was relatively large overlap in confidence limits, likely caused by small sample sizes. Further research is needed to disentangle potential confounding effects of GPS transmitters on survival impacts of grouse in association with large disturbance.