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21 March 2022 Observations of Greater Sage-Grouse at a Solar Energy Facility in Wyoming
Michael B. Gerringer, Kurt T. Smith, Karl L. Kosciuch
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Photovoltaic, utility-scale solar energy (PV USSE) development is expected to expand in the United States over the next decade and has the potential to impact wildlife through direct mortality and habitat loss. However, the current understanding of wildlife responses, including responses of Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus; hereafter, sage-grouse), to solar energy development is limited, resulting in uncertainty about potential impacts associated with development and operation. During bird and bat carcass searches at a PV USSE facility in Sweetwater County, Wyoming, we opportunistically observed sage-grouse foraging and loafing inside the facility. We recorded 19 groups of live sage-grouse, representing a total of 47 observations of sage-grouse during 2 years of environmental monitoring. An additional 8 groups were recorded by trail cameras, representing 11 observations of sage-grouse. Observations occurred between early June and mid-January, with 74% of observations occurring between mid-August and mid-November. It is possible that sage-grouse may have used the facility for increased foraging opportunities or thermal refuge. However, our observational study does not provide evidence that sage-grouse necessarily selected for areas within the facility. Additional research on resource selection and demographic responses by sage-grouse would provide more inference on how sage-grouse respond to PV USSE development.

© 2022
Michael B. Gerringer, Kurt T. Smith, and Karl L. Kosciuch "Observations of Greater Sage-Grouse at a Solar Energy Facility in Wyoming," Western North American Naturalist 82(1), 196-200, (21 March 2022).
Received: 20 September 2021; Accepted: 17 December 2021; Published: 21 March 2022
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