Presentation Abstract

Title: Raptor nest occupancy in relation to coal-bed methane development in the Powder River Basin, Wyoming.
Session Title: "Ecology, Conservation and Management of Birds"
Session Number: 44
Session Time: Monday, Oct 15, 2012, 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Presentation Time: Monday, Oct 15, 2012, 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Presentation Number: 20
Author(s): Lindsey E. Sanders, Jason D. Carlisle, Anna D. Chalfoun, Ken G. Gerow, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY, Contact:
Abstract Body: More than 15,000 coal-bed methane (CBM) wells have been constructed over the past ten years in the Powder River Basin, northeastern Wyoming. This development overlaps breeding territories of many raptor species, with largely unknown consequences to nesting habitat use. Our objectives were to determine 1) temporal and spatial trends in raptor nest occupancy in relation to CBM development at both the community and individual focal species level, and 2) local habitat characteristics that may mitigate disturbance caused by energy development. Using nest occupancy data for 19 raptor species and the locations of CBM wells constructed in the Powder River Basin from 2003-2011, we used GIS to create an index of industrial impact for each raptor nest based on the inverse weighted distance to CBM wells within a 0.5 mile buffer. We analyzed the effect of industrial impact on raptor nest use using linear regression, summarizing the change in use for each nest pre- and post-well construction in a paired data format. With all species pooled, raptor nest use decreased as CBM well development occurred at closer proximities to a nest, though nest occupancy gradually increased with time since initial well construction. At the species level, Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis), Great-horned Owls (Bubo virginianus), Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) and Ferruginous Hawks (Buteo regalis) exhibited patterns similar to those described above. However, the effect of CBM development may be influenced by local topography, habitat conditions, and the number of years observed pre- and post-industrialization. Our results will help to inform land managers seeking to balance the needs of raptor populations with energy extraction activities, and provide insight into species-specific tolerance levels for disturbance associated with energy development.

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