Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Massachusetts
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Larsen, R.T., J.A. Bissonette, J.T. Flinders, M.B. Hooten and T.L. Wilson. 2010. Summer spatial patterning of chukars in relation to free water in western Utah. Landscape Ecology 25: 135-145.


Free water is considered important to wildlife in arid regions. In the western United States, thousands of water developments have been built to benefit wildlife in arid landscapes. Agencies and researchers have yet to clearly demonstrate their effectiveness. We combined a spatial analysis of summer chukar (Alectoris chukar) covey locations with dietary composition analysis in western Utah. Our specific objectives were to determine if chukars showed a spatial pattern that suggested association with free water in four study areas and to document summer dietary moisture content in relation to average distance from water. The observed data for the Cedar Mountains study area fell within the middle of the random mean distance to water distribution suggesting no association with free water. The observed mean distance to water for the other three areas was much closer than expected compared to a random spatial process, suggesting the importance of free water to these populations. Dietary moisture content of chukar food items from the Cedar Mountains (59%) was significantly greater (P < 0.05) than that of birds from Box Elder (44%) and Keg-Dugway (44%). Water developments on the Cedar Mountains are likely ineffective for chukars. Spatial patterns on the other areas, however, suggest association with free water and our results demonstrate the need for site-specific considerations. Researchers should be aware of the potential to satisfy water demand with pre-formed and metabolic water for a variety of species in studies that address the effects of wildlife water developments. We encourage incorporation of spatial structure in model error components in future ecological research.