Fences reduce habitat for a partially migratory ungulate in the northern sagebrush steppe

Paul F. Jones, Andrew F. Jakes, Andrew C. Telander, Hall Sawyer, Brian H. Martin, Mark Hebblewhite

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Few studies have examined differential responses of partially migratory ungulates to human development or activity, where some individuals in a population migrate and others do not. Yet understanding how animals with different movement tactics respond to anthropogenic disturbance is key to sustaining global ungulate migrations. We examined seasonal resource selection of a partially migratory population of pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) in the Northern Sagebrush Steppe of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Montana from 2003 to 2011. We developed step-selection functions (SSF) for migrant and resident pronghorn during the summer and winter at two spatial scales (second order and third order) and then integrated SSFs across scales to estimate pronghorn responses to fences and subsequent habitat loss from these features while accounting for responses to other resource use. Both migrant and resident pronghorn showed the strongest responses to natural and anthropogenic features at the second order and weaker responses at the third order. Selection responses of migrant and residents differed the most in response to normalized difference vegetation index, topography, and anthropogenic features. Seasonally, selection for intermediate greenness was strongest in summer, whereas avoidance of roads strongly influenced winter resource selection of both tactics. Both migrant and resident pronghorn showed strong avoidance of fencing at both spatial scales during summer and winter. Model predictions with complete removal of fences from the landscape (i.e., natural conditions) predicted an increase in the area of highquality habitat of 16–38%. In contrast, doubling fence density on the landscape decreased the amount of high-quality habitat by 1–11% and increased low-quality habitat by 13–21%. Our results suggest that pronghorn winter and summer ranges can be improved by reducing the density of fences on the landscape, or mitigation measures to enhance fence crossings, to alleviate the indirect loss of habitat for this important endemic prairie species.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere02791
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2019


  • Antilocapra americana
  • Connectivity
  • Fences
  • Habitat loss
  • Movement barriers
  • Movement tactic
  • Pronghorn
  • Resource selection


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