ABS 2022
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Understanding Kangaroo Rat Habitat Use to Improve Conservation Outcomes
Rachel Y. Chock1, Debra M. Shier1,2. 1San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, Escondido, CA, United States; 2University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, United States

Habitat loss and fragmentation are leading causes of species declines around the globe. Habitat restoration can help mitigate these losses, but often animals do not use restored areas in the same way as they do intact habitat. Experimentally assessing behavioral response to various restoration techniques can help identify the most appropriate management strategies. Multiple species of kangaroo rats in southern California, USA, are at risk from habitat loss due to development, invasive grasses, and changing natural disturbance regimes. We characterized the habitat features in extant populations of endangered kangaroo rats, and tested various restoration techniques to meet these habitat targets. Through experimental translocation, we can observe their response to multiple restoration treatments by tracking movement and settlement decisions. Evaluating a behavioral rather than demographic response to restoration can minimize negative impacts of the experimental manipulation on endangered species, and provide clear conservation management alternatives.