Date of Award:

2015

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Wildland Resources

Advisor/Chair:

Terry A. Messmer

Abstract

Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus; sage-grouse) are a sagebrush obligate species and as such an indicator of sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) habitat quality and quantity. Sage-grouse populations have declined across western North America. This decline has been attributed to habitat loss and degradation of the sagebrush ecosystem. To determine factors that may cause localized declines in sage-grouse populations, managers may need site-specific information on the ecology and habitat use patterns of meta-populations. This information is currently lacking for sage-grouse populations that inhabit the Bear Lake Plateau and Valley (BLPV), encompassing parts of Idaho, Utah and Wyoming. I captured, radio-marked and monitored 153 sage-grouse in the BLPV from 2010–2012 to assess nest success, brood survival, mortality factors, and habitat use. Reproductive success was lower than range-wide averages, with especially low success in 2011. Nesting and brood rearing both showed higher success rates in 2012. Survival was very similar to estimates found elsewhere. Females had higher survival rates than males, and yearlings had higher survival probability than adults. Sage-grouse mortality was highest in summer and spring, and lowest in fall. Individual sage-grouse completed large scale movements, often using habitats in Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming. Important factors in sage-grouse habitat selection included distance to major road, distance to habitat edge, distance to vertical structure (i.e., communication towers, wind turbines, and transmission lines), and vegetation cover types. Sage-grouse tended to avoid major road and vertical structures (i.e., communication towers, wind turbines, and transmission lines). They also selected habitat further away from habitat edge. Vegetation types preferred by sage-grouse included shrubland habitats, wet meadows, and grassland. MaxEnt models did not place highest importance on sagebrush habitats, which are critical for sage-grouse presence. This could have occurred because the vegetation layers used in the model did not assess habitat quality. Models produced using the ten landscape variables and BLPV sage-grouse locations ranked good to excellent fits. State-defined habitat covered a larger extent than MaxEnt predicted habitat. MaxEnt predicted habitat areas may be used to further refine state identified core areas to assist in prioritization of conservation efforts to protect the BLPV sage-grouse population.

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