We derived a method of estimating the direction and magnitude of cover changes for potentially maximizing wildlife abundance on an area. We illustrate the method with data on cover selection by northern bobwhites (Colinus virginianus) collected in the Texas Panhandle from 2000 to 2003. We used radiotelemetry to determine use of cover associations, Geographic Information System analysis to determine their availability, and logic related to use-availability analysis to collapse 95% kernel home ranges to usable space. Bobwhites selected mixed-shrub cover consisting of sand plum (Prunus angustifolia) and fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica), and they avoided or neutrally used 8 other cover associations. However, grass upland and sand sagebrush (Artemisia filifolia) associations occurred in ≥86% of home ranges (n = 96 bobwhites with ≥30 radiolocations). Usable space averaged 54.2% ± 1.72 SE of kernel home ranges. The data indicated that adding about 226 ha of mixed-shrub cover or a structural homologue while simultaneously reducing the quantity of most other cover associations would maximize bobwhite abundance. An area with 30–60% mixed-shrub cover, with the balance in grass upland and sand sagebrush, and with cover dispersed such that no point was >30 m from mixed-shrub cover was hypothetically optimal for bobwhites in our region. Within certain constraints (e.g., financial, social, edaphic), managers can apply this method by manipulating cover types through relevant management practices (e.g., planting, prescribed burning, mechanical removal of vegetation). This method, with minor modification, could also be used to decrease usable space on an area, and thus decrease wildlife densities, should that be the manager's objective.
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Vol. 71 • No. 1