Date of Award:

5-2010

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Wildland Resources

Advisor/Chair:

Terry A. Messmer

Abstract

Columbian sharp-tailed grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus columbianus: hereafter sharp-tailed grouse) populations have been declining. These declines have been attributed to a number of factors, including habitat loss due to agriculture, habitat fragmentation, overgrazing by livestock, and the loss to fire. To gather information about their status in northern Utah, I radio-marked sharp-tailed grouse in 2003 (n=15) and 2004 (n=20) in two research areas. The study areas were located on the south end of Cache County and in eastern Box Elder County. In the Cache study area, I monitored 7 males and 1 female in 2003, and 6 males and 3 females in 2004. In the Box Elder study area, I monitored 6 males in 2003 and 6 males and 5 females in 2004. I then located the radio-marked sharp-tailed grouse using telemetry and collected Visual Obstruction Readings (VOR) and vegetation data on each flush site and on a randomly selected paired point. I completed an unsupervised classification of the two study areas to determine if habitats were used more than would be expected based on availability. I then used a paired point linear regression to determine if vegetation parameters were correlated with sharp-tailed grouse on the landscape. Sagebrush in the Box Elder County study area and forbs in the Cache County study area were significantly correlated with habitat use by sharp-tailed grouse. The VOR readings were higher at the flush sites than at the paired points. The unsupervised classification showed that in Box Elder County, sagebrush was used in greater proportion than is available, while in the Cache County study area there were no habitat types that were used in greater proportion than was available on the landscape. I collected information on nest sites, nest success, broods, and mortality of these 2 populations. Nest success was 75% combined over the 2-year study, and mortality was 72% for both populations over the 2 years. Seasonal habitat use and distance travelled were determined using Global Positioning System points collected at every flush point. The distance traveled ranged from 0.9 km to 14.7 km, with the longest distance being travelled in the winter.

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