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Assessing the indirect effects of predation risk on pheasant behavior and habitat use

Lindsey Messinger radio tags pheasants to assess behavioral responses to predation risk


January 2012 - January 2015


Predation is a strong selective force that shapes prey morphology, physiology, and behavior and acts over evolutionary as well as ecological time. Studies of predator-prey dynamics traditionally focus on the obvious consumptive impacts (direct mortality) of predators on their prey, but non-consumptive impacts have been demonstrated in virtually all taxa and their effects are wide-ranging; influencing micro- and macro-habitat use, time allocation patterns, species distribution, population growth, and species interactions. In order to evaluate the non-consumptive impacts of predation risk, specifically, plastic antipredator responses prompted by perceived predation risk and their associated costs, we will evaluate the behavioral responses of ring-necked pheasants (Phasianus clochicus) to recreational hunting. This study system presents a unique opportunity to investigate non-consumptive predation risk in the absence of consumption (i.e., the cost of perceived predation risk without actual risk). In our study system, recreational hunting represents an actual, consumptive predation risk for male pheasants, while females are exposed to potentially lethal predators, receiving feedback and reinforcement for the expression of antipredator responses in the presence of recreational hunters. As such, our study system is ideal in that consumptive predation risk (experienced by roosters only) and non-consumptive predation risk (experienced by both roosters and hens) are isolated. Assuming males and females perceive similar levels of predation risk and that the effects of mortality and perceived predation risk are additive, we are able to evaluate the relative effects of consumptive (mortality) and non-consumptive (perceived) predation risk on pheasant antipredator responses.

Research Products and Activities


  • Messinger, L. 2015. Habitat and site selection of pheasants and their hunters during the hunting season. M.S. Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln


  • Messinger, L. and J.J. Fontaine. 2013. Pheasant Behavioral Responses to Hunting Pressure and Current Management Actions. Pheasants Forever State Habitat Meeting. Kearney, NE.
  • Messinger, L.N. and J.J. Fontaine. 2013. Pheasant Behavioral Responses to Hunting Pressure and Management Actions. Nebraska Chapter of the Wildlife Society, Chadron, NE.
  • Messinger, L.N. and J.J. Fontaine. 2013. Pheasant Behavioral Responses to Hunting Pressure and Management Actions. Animal Behavior Society Annual Meeting. Boulder, CO.
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Current Staff

Federal Staff: 95

Masters Students: 239

Phd Students: 144

Post Docs: 55

University Staff: 239

5 Year Summary

Students graduated: 670

Scientific Publications: 1897

Presentations: 4202



  • Joseph FontainePrincipal Investigator
  • Lindsey MessingerStudent

Funding Agencies

  • Nebraska Game and Parks Commission


Cooperative Research Units Program Headquarters Cooperators

  1. U.S. Geological Survey