Moffat Co., Colorado and Sweetwater Co., Wyoming
Field data collection is complete. Data analysis and preparation of a manuscript for publication is on-going.
- Estimate and compare survival and rates of nest initiation and re-nesting between female greater sage-grouse with GPS transmitters and VHF transmitters
Growing concern for conservation of greater sage-grouse has led to widespread efforts to better understand their demographic rates, movement, habitat selection, and responses to disturbance. The majority of research projects use very high frequency (VHF) transmitters attached to a necklace collar to radio-track individual sage-grouse. However, recent technological advances have led to commercial production of 22-30 g, solar-powered, global positioning system (GPS) platform transmitter terminal (PTT) transmitters suitable for use with greater sage-grouse. GPS transmitters allow collection of multiple locations per day at pre-programmed times, access on the ground is not required to obtain locations, data are gathered without disturbing marked birds or their flockmates, and they provide high-resolution data on survival, movements, habitat use, and nesting.
We conducted a 1-year pilot study to compare survival and nest initiation between female greater sage-grouse with traditional VHF neck collars versus those with rump-mounted solar GPS PTT transmitters in the Hiawatha Regional Energy Development Project area in NW Colorado and SW Wyoming. Preliminary results suggest that survival of GPS females was lower than that of VHF females and that several improvements to transmitter and harness design and attachment method were needed to reduce impacts of GPS transmitters on female greater sage-grouse. Additional study will be needed to rigorously test the effects of GPS transmitters on greater sage-grouse once such improvements are incorporated.