Few studies have evaluated the response of ungulate populations to wind energy development. Recent demand for wind-generated electricity coupled with a tendency for wind-energy facilities to be sited within suitable pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) winter range make this a critical issue for conservation of this icon of western North America. We evaluated pronghorn response to wind energy development at the winter home range scale, as well as within individual winter home ranges using data collected from 47 adult female pronghorn equipped with Global Positioning System transmitters. At both scales, we developed separate resource selection models for pronghorn before (winter 2010) and after (winters 2011 and 2012) development of the Dunlap Ranch wind energy facility in south-central Wyoming to evaluate the potential impacts of wind energy infrastructure on pronghorn winter resource selection. In general, pronghorn winter resource selection was correlated with greater sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) cover, lower snow depth, and lower slopes before and after wind energy development at both scales. At the larger scale, pronghorn selected home ranges closer to wind turbines during all winters. Within home ranges, pronghorn selected areas closer to future locations of wind turbines at Dunlap Ranch during 2010 before turbine erection. However, we found evidence that pronghorn avoided wind turbines in winters after development within their winter home ranges. This relationship was most evident during winter 2011, which coincided with the most severe winter of our study. Long-term replicated studies will be necessary to make inferences for pronghorn populations exposed to wind energy development in different environments and scales than we evaluated. Nonetheless, in the absence of additional information on how ungulates respond to wind energy development, our finding that pronghorn avoided wind turbines within their winter home ranges has important implications for future wind development projects, particularly in areas known to fulfill important seasonal requirements of pronghorn populations.
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Vol. 73 • No. 2