PALM SPRINGS, CA – A study conducted at the windmills near Palm Springs showed that predators are less likely to attack prey living near the wind turbines, including desert tortoises that burrow in the Coachella Valley.
Researchers from the University of California, Davis and the U.S. Geological Survey employed motion-activated cameras facing the entrances of 46 active desert tortoise burrows at the 5.2-square-kilometer wind energy facility.
They found that predators are far more likely to visit the tortoises’ burrows near dirt roads and far less likely to visit burrows close to turbines.
The five predator species monitored included bobcats, gray foxes, coyotes, black bears and western spotted skunks, who scientists say were not actively hunting the tortoises but seeking smaller prey that frequently live in desert tortoise burrows.
“These findings could be helpful in assisting managers to design future wind energy facilities with species in mind,” said lead author Mickey Agha. “There may be benefits to adding space between turbines and increasing the number of dirt roads, to potentially provide habitat for sensitive terrestrial wildlife.”
Scientists behind the study — which was published in the April issue of The Journal of Wildlife Management — say the findings show that the design of wind energy infrastructure impacts animal behavior, an area of study rarely touched on.
“There is little information on predator-prey interactions in wind energy landscapes in North America, and this study provides a foundation for learning more,” said Jeffrey Lovich, USGS scientist and study co-author.
“Further investigation of causes that underlie road and wind turbine effects, such as ground vibrations, sound emission and traffic volume, could help provide a better understanding of wildlife responses to wind energy development,” he said.
-By City News Service
Animal Predatory Behavior Decreases Near Desert Wind Turbines, Study Finds, by Patch Staff, Patch, May 5, 2017.