Use of Implanted Radiotransmitters to Estimate Survival of Greater Sage-Grouse Chicks

Authors

  • MICHAEL A. GREGG,

    Corresponding author
    1. United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Sheldon-Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex, P.O. Box 111, Lakeview, OR 97630, USA
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    • United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Hanford Reach National Monument, 3250 Port of Benton Boulevard, Richland, WA 99354 USA.

  • MIKE R. DUNBAR,

    1. United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Sheldon-Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex, P.O. Box 111, Lakeview, OR 97630, USA
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    • United States Department of Agriculture, National Wildlife Research Center, 4101 LaPorte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521 USA.

  • JOHN A. CRAWFORD

    1. Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, 97331, USA
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    • P.O. Box 6622, Bend, OR 97701 USA.


E-mail: mike_gregg@fws.gov

Abstract

ABSTRACT Reduced chick survival has been implicated in declines of greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) populations. Because monitoring survival of unmarked sage-grouse chicks is difficult, radiotelemetry may be an effective technique to estimate survival rates, identify causes of mortality, and collect ecological data. Previous studies have used subcutaneous implants to attach radiotransmitters to hatchlings of several species of birds with precocial young. Previous researchers who used subcutaneous implants in free-ranging populations removed chicks from the capture location and implanted transmitters at an alternate site. Because logistics precluded removing newly hatched greater sage-grouse chicks from the field, we evaluated a method for implanting transmitters at capture locations. We captured 288 chicks from 52 broods and monitored 286 radiomarked chicks daily for 28 days following capture during May and June 2001–2002. Two (>1%) chicks died during surgery and we did not radiomark them. At the end of the monitoring period, 26 chicks were alive and 212 were dead. Most (98%, 207/212) radiomarked chick mortality occurred < 21 days posthatch and predation (82%, 174/212) was the primary cause of death. Necropsies of 22 radiomarked chicks did not indicate inflammation or infection from implants, and they were not implicated in the death of any chicks. Fate of 48 chicks was unknown because of transmitter loss (n = 16), radio failure (n = 29), and brood mixing (n = 3). Overall, the 28-day chick survival rate was 0.220 (SE = 0.028). We found that mortalities related to the implant procedure and transmitter loss were similar to rates reported by previous researchers who removed chicks from capture sites and implanted transmitters at an alternate location. Subcutaneous implants may be a useful method for attaching transmitters to newly hatched sage-grouse chicks to estimate survival rates, identify causes of mortality, and collect ecological data.

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