There is little information on predator–prey interactions in wind energy landscapes in North America, especially among terrestrial vertebrates. Here, we evaluated how proximity to roads and wind turbines affect mesocarnivore visitation with desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) and their burrows in a wind energy landscape. In 2013, we placed motion-sensor cameras facing the entrances of 46 active desert tortoise burrows in a 5.2-km2 wind energy facility near Palm Springs, California, USA. Cameras recorded images of 35 species of reptiles, mammals, and birds. Counts for 4 species of mesocarnivores at desert tortoise burrows increased closer to dirt roads, and decreased closer to wind turbines. Our results suggest that anthropogenic infrastructure associated with wind energy facilities could influence the general behavior of mammalian predators and their prey. Further investigation of proximate mechanisms that underlie road and wind turbine effects (i.e., ground vibrations, sound emission, and traffic volume) and on wind energy facility spatial designs (i.e., road and wind turbine configuration) could prove useful for better understanding wildlife responses to wind energy development.
Our study highlights that anthropogenic infrastructure associated with wind energy facilities potentially influences the general behavior of terrestrial vertebrates, such as mesocarnivores. For example, our results suggest that mesocarnivore counts increase closer to dirt roads. Dirt roads may facilitate movements of mesocarnivores. Furthermore, our results provide evidence that mesocarnivore counts increase with distance from wind turbines. In devising management plans, managers could potentially assess wind energy facility spatial design, particularly spacing between turbines and the number of roads, to provide habitat for sensitive terrestrial wildlife. Future investigations could compare terrestrial wildlife behavior among wind energy facilities and on undisturbed public land, and record proximate mechanisms that might underlie the effects of roads and wind turbines (i.e., ground vibrations, sound emission, and traffic volume).