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Greater sage-grouse Centrocercus urophasianus migration links the USA and Canada: a biological basis for international prairie conservation

  • Jason D. Tack (a1), David E. Naugle (a1), John C. Carlson (a2) and Pat J. Fargey (a3)

Abstract

Migratory pathways in North American prairies are critical for sustaining endemic biodiversity. Fragmentation and loss of habitat by an encroaching human footprint has extirpated and severely truncated formerly large movements by prairie wildlife populations. Greater sage-grouse Centrocercus urophasianus, a Near Threatened landscape species requiring vast tracts of intact sagebrush Artemisia spp., exhibit varied migratory strategies across their range in response to the spatial composition of available habitats. We unexpectedly documented the longest migratory event ever observed in sage-grouse (> 120 km one way) in 2007–2009 while studying demography of a population at the north-east edge of their range. Movements that encompassed 6,687 km2 included individuals using distinct spring and summer ranges and then freely intermixing on the winter range in what is probably an obligate, annual event. The fate of greater sage-grouse in Canada is in part dependent on habitat conservation in the USA because this population spans an international border. Expanding agricultural tillage and development of oil and gas fields threaten to sever connectivity for this imperilled population. Science can help delineate high priority conservation areas but the fate of landscapes ultimately depends on international partnerships implementing conservation at scales relevant to prairie wildlife.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

*Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana, 32 Campus Drive, Missoula, Montana 59812, USA. E-mail jasontack@gmail.com

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