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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 34(4)

Conservation risks of exotic chukars (Alectoris chukar) and their associated management: implications for a widely introduced phasianid

Randy T. Larsen A D, Jerran T. Flinders A, Dean L. Mitchell B, Ernest R. Perkins C

A Department of Plant and Wildlife Sciences, Brigham Young University, 275 WIDB, BYU, Provo, UT 84602, USA.
B Upland Game Program Coordinator, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, PO Box 146301, Salt Lake City, UT 84114, USA.
C Upland Game Advisory Council, 3087 Maxine Drive, Layton, UT 84040, USA.
D Corresponding author. Email: randy_larsen@byu.edu
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Chukars (Alectoris chukar) have been widely introduced throughout the world. Their introductions and associated management for sport hunting have the potential to affect native ecosystems in a variety of ways. Our specific objectives were: (1) to document species using water developments designed to benefit chukar populations to determine whether, and at what prevalence, exotic species appear to use, and presumably benefit from, additional watering points; (2) to describe chukar diet with specific reference to cheatgrass and other exotic plant seeds; and (3) to determine whether chukars are a likely vector for dispersal of cheatgrass and/or other plant seeds via passage through the gut. In total, 27 different wildlife species were photographed across all 36 sampled water developments. Three exotic species were photographed to include chukars, rock dove (Columba livia), and red fox (Vulpes vulpes), with the latter two species photographed at only two and one site respectively. Mean number of species photographed (5.69 ± 1.09) ranged from 1 to 13, but was estimated near 10 after accounting for sampling time. Cheatgrass seed was found in 76.3% of crops and constituted 45.2% of dry weight. Thirteen plants germinated from 503 chukar faecal droppings. We found no evidence of widespread use of water points designed for chukars by other exotic species or dispersal of cheatgrass seed via passage through the gut. Chukars appear (at least initially) benign and they are not likely to be major vectors in plant seed dispersal. Furthermore, chukars could foster localised plant diversity in that they consume large quantities of primarily exotic plant seed and do not show a propensity for dispersal of seeds through faecal droppings.

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