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1 February 2004 Conservation and Social Structure of Stephens' Kangaroo Rat: Implications from Burrow-use Behavior
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Understanding patterns of burrow-use behavior can provide insights into social structure and may have important implications for management of threatened or endangered species. Most kangaroo rat species are assumed to be solitary, but some populations of the endangered Stephens' kangaroo rat (Dipodomys stephensi) exhibit aggregated burrow associations. Observation of burrow-use patterns over a period of 2 years allowed us to assess the extent of burrow sharing, providing insights into the degree of sociality in this species. Understanding burrow-use patterns also is critical for conservation because the most widely used technique for population estimation for this species relies on a linear relation between burrow density and population size. Although the density of burrow entrances is known to correlate positively with population density, very little is known about how robust this correlation is in the face of changing demographic and environmental variables. Over 14 three-night sessions, burrow entrance sharing occurred between 26% of individuals, with up to 4 individuals sharing a single burrow entrance. The predominant burrow sharing combination (42%) was adult males with adult females. The number of burrow entrances used varied by location and by age of inhabitant. The relationship between density of burrow entrances and that of D. stephensi varied significantly by location but not by date, and individuals in high-density populations used fewer burrow entrances than individuals in low-density populations. Consequently, variation in location, population density, and ratio of juveniles to adults should all be considered when using the method of counting burrow entrances to estimate population size. When these factors vary, the relationship of burrow entrance count to D. stephensi density may need to be recalibrated to predict density accurately. We recommend this method be employed cautiously and that results obtained be interpreted as conservative estimates of population size.

Rachel E. Brock and Douglas A. Kelt "Conservation and Social Structure of Stephens' Kangaroo Rat: Implications from Burrow-use Behavior," Journal of Mammalogy 85(1), 51-57, (1 February 2004).<0051:CASSOS>2.0.CO;2
Accepted: 31 January 2003; Published: 1 February 2004

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