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Werdel Wildlife

Past and Current Research Projects

Recent Publications


Werdel, T.J., C.W. Piper, A.M. Ricketts, M.S. Peek, and A.A Ahlers. In‑Press. Direct and indirect landscape‑scale pathways structure carnivore communities in an agro‑prairie ecosystem. Journal of Mammalogy.


Werdel, T.J., J.A. Jenks, J.T. Kanta, C.P. Lehman, and T.J. Frink. 2023. Resource selection and herbaceous biomass at foraging sites of translocated bighorn sheep. Rangeland Ecology & Management.


Werdel, T.J., C.W. Piper, A.M. Ricketts, M.S. Peek, D.S. Sullins, and A.A Ahlers. 2023. Strategic grassland conservation for swift foxes in multi-use landscapes. Biological Conservation.


Palomo‑Muñoz, G, T.J. Werdel, C.W. Piper, M.S. Peek, A.M. Ricketts, and A.A Ahlers. 2022. Spatiotemporal distributions of mammals occurring in an agro‑prairie ecosystem. Ecology.


Hessami, M.A., T.J. Werdel, S.J. Hoagland, and M.T. Kohl. 2022. Melding Past, Present, and Future: The importance of tribal management in wildlife conservation and management. Chapter 1 in C. Bishop, E. Gomez, J. Organ, and T. Ryder eds. Introduction to Wildlife Management and Conservation in North America. Great River Learning of Dubuque, IA. ISBN: 9781680755978


Werdel, T.J., C.W. Piper, A.M. Ricketts, M.S. Peek, and A.A. Ahlers. 2022. Scale-specific landscape effects impose range-limiting constraints on the distribution of a prairie-obligate carnivore. Landscape Ecology. s10980-022-01466-0 


Werdel, T.J., J.A. Jenks, J.T. Kanta, C.P. Lehman, and T.J. Frink. 2021. Space use and movement patterns of translocated bighorn sheep. Mammalian Biology. 


Werdel, T.J., J.A. Jenks, T.E. Besser, J.T. Kanta, C.P. Lehman, and T.J. Frink. 2019. Restoration of a bighorn sheep population impeded by Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae exposure. Restoration Ecology. // (Cover Article)


Werdel, T.J., J.A. Jenks, T.E. Besser, J.T. Kanta, C.P. Lehman, and T.J. Frink. 2018. Survival of translocated bighorn sheep in the Deadwood region of the Black Hills, South Dakota. Northwestern Naturalist 99:222-231. NWN18-06.1

Current Research Projects


We are currently working to understand the contemporary distribution of North American river otters (Lontra canadensis) in the state of Texas. Anecdotally, river otters have expanded their range westward across the state and we will determine how landscape change (i.e., urbanization, pond construction, watershed manipulation) and climate may be influencing their distributions. Additionally, we will attempt to use telemetry and GPS units to understand movement patterns and resource use. 

Past Research Projects

The Great Plains region has undergone extensive conversion of native prairies to agriculture production and energy development since European colonization. We examined how contemporary landscape composition and characteristics influenced site occupancy probabilities and turnover rates by swift foxes (Vulpes velox), the spatial and temporal interactions between swift foxes and coyotes (Canis latrans), and carnivore richness in agro-prairie ecosystems. Additionally, we strategically identified native prairie areas to focus conservation and management of remaining swift fox habitat.

We captured and translocated 26 bighorn sheep from the Luscar Mine near Hinton, Alberta, Canada to the Deadwood Region of the Black Hills, South Dakota. We evaluated the newly established bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) herd by 1a) determining annual survival rates, 1b) determining cause-specific mortality, 1c) estimating population size, 2a) assessing genetic diversity, 2b) assessing disease prevalence, 3) evaluating movement patterns post-release, 4a) evaluating 3rd -order habitat selection, and 4b) estimating herbaceous biomass at foraging sites post-release of translocated bighorn sheep. 

Prairie dog populations have declined by 90-98%, with their range disappearing due to encroachment of habitat, as well as eradication. Small mammals use prairie dog burrows for dens, shelter, and predator avoidance. Additionally, small mammal species richness, diversity, and abundance has been shown to increase in areas with prairie dogs. On the Sevilleta NWR in New Mexico, prairie dog populations were restored through translocation. Our goal was to determine the effect of Gunnison's prairie dog (Cynomys gunnisoni) reintroduction on small mammal species abundance and diversity.

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