Resource utilization function (RUF) models permit evaluation of potential habitat for endangered species; ideally such models should be evaluated before use in management decision-making. We evaluated the predictive capabilities of a previously developed black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) RUF. Using the population-level RUF, generated from ferret observations at an adjacent yet distinct colony, we predicted the distribution of ferrets within a black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) colony in the Conata Basin, South Dakota, USA. We evaluated model performance, using data collected during postbreeding spotlight surveys (2007–2008) by assessing model agreement via weighted compositional analysis and count-metrics. Compositional analysis of home range use and colony-level availability, and core area use and home range availability, demonstrated ferret selection of the predicted Very high and High occurrence categories in 2007 and 2008. Simple count-metrics corroborated these findings and suggested selection of the Very high category in 2007 and the Very high and High categories in 2008. Collectively, these results suggested that the RUF was useful in predicting occurrence and intensity of space use of ferrets at our study site, the 2 objectives of the RUF. Application of this validated RUF would increase the resolution of habitat evaluations, permitting prediction of the distribution of ferrets within distinct colonies. Additional model evaluation at other sites, on other black-tailed prairie dog colonies of varying resource configuration and size, would increase understanding of influences upon model performance and the general utility of the RUF.
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Vol. 75 • No. 5