A population of the grassland earless dragon (Tympanocryptis pinguicolla) on the Darling Downs, Queensland, Australia, had been considered extinct until its recent rediscovery. We determined factors affecting grassland earless dragon abundance and prey availability in 3 habitats. Mean dragon body condition and prey numbers were higher in sorghum than grasslands and grass verges. Poisson regression analyses indicated that the dragon numbers were 10 times higher in sorghum, and that this may result from differences in prey numbers as well as other habitat conditions. Tracking data indicated selection of open versus closed microhabitat. Sorghum planted in rows provided alternating open and closed microhabitats for optimal thermoregulation conditions. Grasslands and grass verges were more uniformly shaded. Of individuals we tracked in the sorghum stubble, 85.7% used litter as overnight refuges. Litter was abundant in sorghum and sparse in grass habitats. The practices of minimum tillage and resting stubble strips possibly mitigate agricultural impacts on dragons and provide continuous access to suitable habitat. Changes in agricultural practices that affect the habitat suitability will potentially have detrimental impacts on the population. Our data suggest that conservation efforts be focused on maintaining suitability of habitats in crop fields. We recommend monitoring dragon abundance at control and trial sites of any new agricultural practices; this will provide opportunity to modify or stop undesirable practices before adoption by farmers. Conservation agencies may use our data as a baseline for monitoring long-term viability of the population.
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Vol. 70 • No. 4