Jennifer S. Forbey
The Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area (NCA) is a popular destination of many Treasure Valley residents. There, recreationists participate in various pastimes such as target shooting, recreational shooting/hunting, and wildlife viewing. However, these activities have the potential to interfere with one another. Recreational shooting of Piute ground squirrels (Urocitellus mollis) could affect prey availability and scavenging opportunities for associated raptor species, most notably local golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) populations. To assess possible interactions among shooters, prey and raptors, the spatial density and habitat preference of human shooters must be determined. We hypothesized that higher shooter density would be correlated with proximity to high-use roads and habitat with high visibility. To test this hypothesis, the spatial density and habitat preference of human shooters was determined. First, three routes of approximately 16 km each were established throughout the northwest section of the NCA through “hunter hotspots” of various habitat types. Routes were driven on weekends, starting in the morning, from February 28 to March 21, 2015. Data was collected opportunistically on all shooters observed including group size, demographics, location, and the habitat characteristics (e.g. proximity to roads and visibility) of shooting sites. These data were used to determine which habitat features best predicted shooting locations. This study may directly inform future research on golden eagle scavenging ecology, competition between hunters and eagles, and the potential for lead entry into the ecosystem through use of lead ammunition.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/julie_heath/35/