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Distribution and Abundance of Predators that Affect
Duck Production: Prairie Pothole Region

Predator Communities

Every quarter section we examined was occupied by several predator species. Although we could not determine the composition and relative abundance of predators in each quarter section, we rated the abundance of nearly all species and species-groups known or believed to be resident in one or more study areas (Figs. 5-21). A species was generally present throughout a study area where it was rated common or numerous. Exceptions included spatial segregation of coyotes and red foxes and occasional instances when a species was abundant in part of a study area but uncommon or absent in the remaining area. The distributions of uncommon or scarce species were often restricted to small portions of study areas (e.g., area around the only American crow nest). Excluding gulls, the number of species per study area averaged 12.2 (SD = 1.60); the number of common or numerous species averaged 6.0 (SD = 1.54; minimal because abundance of weasels in all study areas and abundance of minks and raptors in some study areas were not determined; Table 4 [mammals], Table 5 [birds]).

The species composition and abundance of predator species in study areas varied within and among parts of the prairie pothole region. The striped skunk, American crow, and northern harrier were the only species detected in all study areas (Tables 4 and 5). The red fox was detected in all but one study area but was rated scarce in two (Fig.7) where tracks were found in <7% of searched quarter sections (Appendix Table 5). All species except the striped skunk and northern harrier were undetected or scarce in at least one study area, and two mammals (gray wolf, mink) and two birds (common raven, ferruginous hawk) were undetected in >50% of study areas (Tables 4 and 5).

Distribution and especially abundance of some predator species was influenced by habitat type. Species of the aspen parkland zone were the Franklin's ground squirrel, black-billed magpie, American crow, and red-tailed hawk (Appendix Table 7). Species of the prairie zone were the badger and Swainson's hawk (Appendix Table 7). The ferruginous hawk also was clearly most closely associated with the prairie (Fig. 20), but populations were too low to demonstrate the relation (Appendix Table 7).

Abundance of some predator species was related to country. This relation probably reflected latitude and its influence on climate, habitat, and prey or possibly differences in direct human influences (e.g., human-inflicted mortality, agricultural practices). Species that were more often common or more abundant in Canada than in the United States were the coyote, black-billed magpie, and American crow. Species that more often were common or more abundant in the United States than in Canada were the red fox, raccoon, mink, ferruginous hawk, and great horned owl. However, the species composition of predators end the abundance of individual predator species in individual study areas varied within and among parts of the prairie pothole region.

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