Color Country - Utah CBCP

    Color Country

    Meetings


    • Next Meeting: to be announced.  Contact Nicki Frey at435-586-1924 for more details.
    • Chairs: Adam Bronson and Wally Dobbs
    • Tentative Meeting dates in 2016: February 17, April 13, June 15, September 14, and December 7 (meetings generally begin at 11 AM)

    Color Country Local Working Group Management Plan


    Reports and Publications


    Sage-grouse Basic Information Poster

    Minutes:

    Flagship Project


    Alton and Sink Valley Sage-grouse Monitoring

    Introduction:

    Due to the declining Greater Sage-Grouse (grouse) populations in southern Utah, the members of the Color Country Local Working Group combined efforts to study grouse in Long Valley, Utah. The study efforts were concentrated in Alton and Sink Valley to determine baseline data for this population. The Alton lek marks the southern-most lek of Greater Sage-Grouse in North America, but little else was known about them at the outset of this study. Using a Cost-share Agreement with the Bureau of Land Management, a study was created to determine movements and habitat use of this southern population of grouse.

    Methods:

    To determine grouse habitat use and migration radio-transmitter collars were placed on grouse. Trapping began in March of 2005 using an ATV, spotlight, and nets, and was repeated each fall and spring to maintain a population of at least 12 birds during the rearing and dispersal seasons. Trapping was initiated in Alton and Sink Valley, but in 2006 the study expanded to include the northern Heut’s Ranch lek. Captured grouse were sexed, assessed for injuries, and fitted with a necklace radio-transmitter. Beginning in 2007, blood samples were taken from trapped birds for genetic research. The bird was then released on site. After allowing two days recuperation, we used radio-telemetry to track the movements of the individual birds. During the summer grouse were found three to four times weekly. From September to April grouse were located twice a week. Although triangulation was possible, the grouse were visually located. At each site the GPS coordinate was recorded (UTM, Nad83) along with the habitat characteristics, flock size, proximity to any visual predators, and other applicable information.

    Results/Discussion:

    Grouse altered habitat types depending on the season (Figures 1-4). In the spring grouse typically used the areas immediately surrounding their lek in Sink Valley. These habitats included pastures, sagebrush, and pinion/juniper stands interspersed with sagebrush. A split occurred during brood rearing season when a third of the population flew three miles north to Alton while the rest remained in Sink Valley. Summering Alton grouse were found in the agricultural fields and nearby wetlands. The type of crop affected amount of grouse use. Sage-grouse preferred fields planted with alfalfa over those planted with triticale. This may be due to differences in insect numbers, water, and average plant height. Nesting habitat is unknown in Alton because a collared hen never nested there. In Sink Valley hens nested under sagebrush, and then moved chicks to horse pastures and wetlands. Sage-grouse tended to stay in brood-rearing habitat until September. Non-breeding females and males congregated in flocks that used both brood-rearing and surrounding habitats. During the fall both groups moved into typical, sagebrush-dominated habitat. In the early winter Alton grouse moved back to Sink Valley where the population utilized sagebrush flats, and brush-hogged pinion/juniper slopes.

    Grouse appeared to be minimally effected by agricultural practices. In one instance, grouse flushed in front of an alfalfa thresher, and immediately resettled behind. Grazing cattle also didn’t seem to disturb the birds. Grouse were often flushed near or within herds of cattle. In one instance a female grouse was seen walking into the front yard of an Alton house.

    The Hoyt’s Ranch males assembled on a forty male lek ten miles north of Alton. After breeding season the males scattered, and not all were accounted for. In 2006 one male flew six miles south to spend the summer on Sevy’s Bench, a large stretch of private property primarily managed for trophy buck hunting. The areas frequented by sage-grouse included a sagebrush/bitterbrush mix, and sagebrush/Gambel’s Oak. Brooding hens also used Quaking Aspen/sagebrush habitat. In the late fall and winter the male moved to a sagebrush/bitterbrush bench east of the lek until breeding season. One male was found predated on a sagebrush/pinion-juniper hill adjacent to alfalfa fields southwest of Hatch. The third male couldn’t be located until he returned to breed the next year. In 2007 four additional males were trapped and collared. Three of these males migrated to Alton or Sink Valley in the summer. One is currently unaccounted for. Two juveniles trapped in Alton/Sink Valley migrated north to the Hoyt’s Ranch lek and beyond in the winter, and then returned the following summer. Upon arriving in Alton many migrating grouse were preyed upon. Currently only two of these birds remain. With new trapping conducted with have study population of 8 birds.

    Bio:

    Nicki Frey graduated West Virginia University with a BS Degree in Wildlife Managementin1996. In 2001, she obtained her Master’s degree in Wildlife Biology at Utah State University, working on the affects of predator removal on ring-necked pheasant recruitment. Nicki completed her PhD in Wildlife Biology at Utah State University in September 2004 where she conducted research on the interactions between red foxes, raccoons, striped skunks, their use of a corridor environment, and the effects of management on predator populations. Nicki began working for USU Extension and Jack H. Berryman Institute in October 2004, to focus on solving wildlife management issues in southern Utah as the Assistant Extension Wildlife Specialist. She teaches Principles of Natural Resource Management at Southern Utah University, is involved with 4-H, at the national and state level for the Wildlife Habitat Evaluation Program, and serves as the Continuing Education Coordinator for the Jack H. Berryman Institute. In this role, she consults with Wildlife Services employees concerning Wildlife Biologist certification as well as providing them with academic opportunities.

    Nicki Frey