Wildlife-habitat relationships are often conceptualized as resource selection functions (RSFs)—models increasingly used to estimate species distributions and prioritize habitat conservation. We evaluated the predictive capabilities of 2 black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) RSFs developed on a 452-ha colony of black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) in the Conata Basin, South Dakota. We used the RSFs to project the relative probability of occurrence of ferrets throughout an adjacent 227-ha colony. We evaluated performance of the RSFs using ferret space use data collected via postbreeding spotlight surveys June–October 2005–2006. In home ranges and core areas, ferrets selected the predicted "very high" and "high" occurrence categories of both RSFs. Count metrics also suggested selection of these categories; for each model in each year, approximately 81% of ferret locations occurred in areas of very high or high predicted occurrence. These results suggest usefulness of the RSFs in estimating the distribution of ferrets throughout a black-tailed prairie dog colony. The RSFs provide a fine-scale habitat assessment for ferrets that can be used to prioritize releases of ferrets and habitat restoration for prairie dogs and ferrets. A method to quickly inventory the distribution of prairie dog burrow openings would greatly facilitate application of the RSFs.
Additional publication details
Resource selection models are useful in predicting fine-scale distributions of black-footed ferrets in prairie dog colonies