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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Reno, Nevada » Great Basin Rangelands Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #343418

Research Project: Invasive Species Assessment and Control to Enhance Sustainability of Great Basin Rangelands

Location: Great Basin Rangelands Research

Title: The utility of animal behavior studies in natural resource management

Author
item Dimitri, Lindsay
item Longland, William - Bill

Submitted to: Rangelands
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/18/2017
Publication Date: 1/17/2018
Citation: Dimitri, L.A., Longland, W.S. 2018. The utility of animal behavior studies in natural resource management. Rangelands. 40:9-16.

Interpretive Summary: Research on the behavior of individual animals has been growing in recent years, but the role of individual differences in behavior among animals of the same species in nature may be somewhat overlooked in natural resource management. We provide four illustrative examples of how recognizing implications of variation in behavior among individuals of a wildlife species can aid in developing more cost effective and sustainable management techniques.(1)Livestock foraging behaviors are important to understand, as they impact an animal’s ability to locate and identify forage with nutritional qualities required for promoting growth. (2) Sage-grouse exhibit complex mating, nesting and migratory behaviors that are important to recognize for management to be successful. (3) Mountain lions in the Great Basin were generally assumed to prey mainly upon mule deer, but recent studies have found that individual lions are specialize in preying upon feral horses. Millions of dollars are spent each year to manage feral horse populations, so revelations surrounding how mountain lions impact horse population sizes may reduce management costs in areas where this is occurring. (4) Finally, many plants important to land managers are dispersed by rodents that store seeds in shallow caches, where they may produce new seedlings.

Technical Abstract: Although research on the behavior of individual animals has been growing in recent years in parts of the scientific community, the role that individual variation among animals may play in the outcome of species interactions in nature may be somewhat overlooked in natural resource management. Recognizing implications of individual behavioral variation can aid in developing more cost effective and sustainable management techniques, and we provide four illustrative examples. (1)Livestock foraging behaviors are important to understand, as they impact an animal’s ability to locate and identify forage with nutritional qualities required for optimal growth. (2) Sage-grouse exhibit complex mating, nesting and migratory behaviors that are important to recognize for management to be successful. (3) Mountain lions in the Great Basin were generally assumed to prey mainly upon mule deer, but recent studies have found that individual lions are specialize in preying upon feral horses. Millions of dollars are spent each year to manage feral horse populations, so revelations surrounding prey switching in individual mountain lions may reduce management costs in areas where this is occurring. (4) Many plants important to land managers including grasses, shrubs and trees are dispersed by granivorous rodents that store seeds in scattered caches.