Current monitoring efforts for greater prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus cupido pinnatus) populations indicate that populations are declining across their range. Monitoring the population status of greater prairie-chickens is based on traditional lek surveys (TLS) that provide an index without considering detectability. Estimators, such as immigration–emigration joint maximum-likelihood estimator from a hypergeometric distribution (IEJHE), can account for detectability and provide reliable population estimates based on resightings. We evaluated the use of mark–resight methods using radiotelemetry to estimate population size and density of greater prairie-chickens on 2 sites at a tallgrass prairie in the Flint Hills of Kansas, USA. We used average distances traveled from lek of capture to estimate density. Population estimates and confidence intervals at the 2 sites were 54 (CI 50–59) on 52.9 km2 and 87 (CI 82–94) on 73.6 km2. The TLS performed at the same sites resulted in population ranges of 7–34 and 36–63 and always produced a lower population index than the mark–resight population estimate with a larger range. Mark–resight simulations with varying male:female ratios of marks indicated that this ratio was important in designing a population study on prairie-chickens. Confidence intervals for estimates when no marks were placed on females at the 2 sites (CI 46–50, 76–84) did not overlap confidence intervals when 40% of marks were placed on females (CI 54–64, 91–109). Population estimates derived using this mark–resight technique were apparently more accurate than traditional methods and would be more effective in detecting changes in prairie-chicken populations. Our technique could improve prairie-chicken management by providing wildlife biologists and land managers with a tool to estimate the population size and trends of lekking bird species, such as greater prairie-chickens.
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Vol. 70 • No. 2