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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Wildlife and Fisheries Science

First Advisor

Kenneth F. Higgins


Little is known about the abundance and distribution of nongame species by primary habitat types in the northern Great Plains. This is due, in part, to the paucity of biological surveys on public and private lands. Even fewer surveys have occurred on isolated ecosystems in this region. Narrative reports inclusive of the past 60 years (1935-95), are the only records of vertebrate occurrence on Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge (SLNWR). A vertebrate survey was conducted during two field seasons (1995-96) at SLNWR, Brown County, South Dakota. Emphasis was placed on nongame birds and small mammals and initial inventories were attempted for reptiles, amphibians, and fishes. Breeding nongame birds were surveyed using fixed-width belt transects in terrestrial habitats following standard count methods. Forty-six nesting terrestrial bird species were identified on the refuge, of which woodland habitats supported the highest species richness with 3 5, followed by tame grasslands (18), native grasslands (12), and alfalfa (7). Nongame wetland birds were also surveyed in temporarily and seasonally flooded forested (PFOC) and emergent (PEMF) wetland habitats using a semi-circular plot method. Playback recordings were used to determine occurrences of secretive species such as rails (Rallidae). One-hundred and sixteen plot counts were conducted on the refuge. Thirty-two breeding species were surveyed in PFOC and 41 species in PEMF. Yell ow-headed blackbirds (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus) (freq. of occurrence= 99%) and marsh wrens (Cistothorus palustris) (freq. of occurrence= 70% [PFOC] and 89%[PEMF]) were the two most abundant species in both wetland habitat types. Small mammals were surveyed using snap traps and pitfall traps (3,362 trapnights combined) in woodland, grassland, cropland, and wetland-edge habitats. Eight hundred small mammals of eleven species were captured on SLNWR. Five reptiles were surveyed on the refuge including a northern red-bellied snake (Storeria occipitomaculata), a state-threatened species. Five amphibian species were recorded, as well as sixteen fish species. Information collected from detailed surveys such as this one will be used to improve efforts toward efficient ecosystem management.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Vertebrates -- South Dakota -- Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Wildlife management -- South Dakota -- Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge


Includes bibliographical references (page 92-100)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright © 1996 William A. Meeks. All rights reserved.