Natural Resources, School of


Date of this Version


Document Type



Laskowski, J. 2014. Fear effects on pheasant reproductive ecology and a curriculum to teach wildlife habitat selection. MS thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Natural Resource Sciences, Under the Supervision of Professor Joseph J. Fontaine. Lincoln, Nebraska: April, 2014

Copyright (c) 2014 Jessica Laskowski


Predation risk is an important source of selection that shapes prey density, distribution and abundance. The immediate impacts of predator consumption on prey populations are widespread and well-studied, and a growing body of research demonstrates immediate impacts of predator-induced fear (independent of prey mortality) on prey behavior, physiology and life-history expression. However, predation risk is often seasonally variable and while it is clear that consumption effects often carry over to influence prey population demography for years after predators have disappeared, the temporal carry-over effects of fear on prey populations remain largely unexplored. We assessed effects of fall hunting activity by humans on spring female pheasant reproductive ecology. We were able to isolate the effects of fear from the selective implications of predation because hunter harvest is limited to males, though both sexes experience cues indicative of risk. We found fall hunter activity did not influence female body condition, survival, or nest site choice the following spring; however, females had elevated baseline corticosterone concentrations that were sensitive to body condition, such that birds in poorer condition had higher baseline corticosterone concentrations in high risk sites. Additionally, hunting activity reduced egg size by 10%. Our results indicate that fear alone can impact prey physiology and reproductive investment after cues indicative of risk are gone. To teach grade school students how sources of selection shape wildlife populations, we developed and taught a curriculum that demonstrates concepts of habitat selection through a hands-on outdoor activity using radio-telemetry equipment and an indoor game and discussion.

Advisor: Joseph J. Fontaine