Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Wildlife and Fisheries Science

First Advisor

Kent C. Jensen


Understanding population dynamics and resource selection is crucial in developing wildlife resource management plans, particularly for sensitive species. Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) populations have declined range-wide at a rate of 2% per year from 1965 to 2003. In South Dakota, populations have generally declined. Reasons for the decline are mostly attributed to human-induced factors such as sagebrush degradation and removal, improper range management practices, oil and gas exploration, and West Nile virus infection. Sage-grouse occupy habitats at the eastern edge of their range in western South Dakota. We conducted a 2-year study to investigate the nesting and brood-rearing ecology of sage-grouse in northwestern South Dakota. Female sage-grouse were captured and radio-marked (n = 53) on traditional display grounds. Radio-marked hens were tracked to estimate nesting effort, nest success, and associated habitats. Nest initiation was 95.9%, with an overall nest success of 45.6 ± 5.3%. Hens selected habitats with greater sagebrush canopy cover and nest bowl visual obstruction compared to random sites. Nest success models developed in Program MARK indicated taller grass structures increased nest success. Chick survivorship to seven weeks post hatch ranged from 31 to 43% over the two year period and recruitment of chicks into the breeding population (1 March) was estimated to be between 5 and 10%. Between 12 July and 31 September, West Nile virus accounted for 7 to 21% of the mortality incurred by chicks, however WNv reduced recruitment by 2 to 4%. Sage-grouse selected brood-rearing habitats that provided increased visual obstruction and bluegrass (Poa spp.) cover. More herbaceous vegetation at these sites may provide increased invertebrate abundance, which is necessary in the diets of sage-grouse chicks. Management of sage-grouse nesting habitat on the eastern edge of their range should focus on increasing levels of sagebrush density and canopy cover while maintaining cover and height of grasses. We recommend that land managers maintain maximum grass heights of 26 cm. For brood-rearing sites, managers should maintain high vegetation biomass (visual obstruction) for protective cover and increased invertebrate abundance. We recommended that land managers strive to attain >10% chick recruitment into the breeding season.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Sage grouse -- South Dakota
Sage grouse -- Nests -- South Dakota
Sage grouse -- Ecology -- South Dakota


Includes bibliographical references



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright © 2008 Nicholas W. Kaczor All rights reserved.