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Mammalian mesocarnivore visitation at tortoise burrows in a wind farm

There is little information on predator–prey interactions in wind energy landscapes in North America, especially among terrestrial vertebrates. Here, we evaluated how proximity to roads and wind turbines affect mesocarnivore visitation with desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) and their burrows in a wind energy landscape. In 2013, we placed motion-sensor cameras facing the entrances of 46 active desert tortoise burrows in a 5.2-km² wind energy facility near Palm Springs, California, USA. Cameras recorded images of 35 species of reptiles, mammals, and birds. Counts for 4 species of mesocarnivores at desert tortoise burrows increased closer to dirt roads, and decreased closer to wind turbines. Our results suggest that anthropogenic infrastructure associated with wind energy facilities could influence the general behavior of mammalian predators and their prey. Further investigation of proximate mechanisms that underlie road and wind turbine effects (i.e., ground vibrations, sound emission, and traffic volume) and on wind energy facility spatial designs (i.e., road and wind turbine configuration) could prove useful for better understanding wildlife responses to wind energy development.

Mickey Agha, Amanda L. Smith, Jeffrey E. Lovich, David Delaney, Joshua R. Ennen, Jessica Briggs, Leo J. Fleckenstein, Laura A. Tennant, Shellie R. Puffer, Andrew Walde, Terence R. Arundel, Steven J. Price, and Brian D. Todd

Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology, University of California, Davis;
U.S. Geological Survey, Southwest Biological Science Center, Flagstaff, AZ;
U.S. Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratory, Champaign, IL;
Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute, Chattanooga;
Colorado State University, Fort Collins;
Department of Forestry, University of Kentucky, Lexington; and
Walde Research and Environmental Consulting, Atascadero, CA

Journal of Wildlife Management
First published: 12 April 2017
DOI: 10.1002/jwmg.21262 [1]

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