Recent advancements in extraction technologies have resulted in rapid increases of gas and oil development across the United States and specifically in western North Dakota. This expansion of energy development has unknown influences on local wildlife populations and the ecological interactions within and among species. Our objectives for this study were to evaluate nest success and nest predator dynamics of sharp-tailed grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus) in two study sites that represented areas of high and low energy development intensities in North Dakota. During the summers of 2012 and 2013, we monitored 163 grouse nests using radio telemetry. Of these, 90 nests also were monitored using miniature cameras to accurately determine nest fates and identify nest predators. We simultaneously conducted predator surveys using camera scent stations and occupancy modeling to estimate nest predator occurrence at each site. American badgers (Taxidea taxus) and striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) were the primary nest predators, accounting for 56.7% of all video recorded nest depredations. Nests in our high intensity gas and oil area were 1.95 times more likely to succeed compared to our minimal intensity area. Camera monitored nests were 2.03 times more likely to succeed than non-camera monitored nests. Occupancy of mammalian nest predators was 6.9 times more likely in our study area of minimal gas and oil intensity compared to the high intensity area. Although only a correlative study, our results suggest energy development may alter the predator community, thereby increasing nest success for sharp-tailed grouse in areas of intense development, while adjacent areas may have increased predator occurrence and reduced nest success. Our study illustrates the potential influences of energy development on the nest predator—prey dynamics of sharp-tailed grouse in western North Dakota and the complexity of evaluating such impacts on wildlife.
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Burr, Paul C.; Robinson, Aaron C.; Larsen, Randy T.; Newman, Robert A.; and Ellis-Felege, Susan N., "Sharp-Tailed Grouse Nest Survival and Nest Predator Habitat Use in North Dakota’s Bakken Oil Field" (2017). Biology Faculty Publications. 3.