Grazing is good for grouse
We observed no negative impacts of livestock on nesting or brood-rearing grouse.
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
May 12, 2014
A new research project in southeastern Montana found that sage grouse did better in pastures with livestock grazing than in pastures without livestock grazing. Here's some highlights of the research:
Nest success was higher for nests in pastures with livestock concurrently present (59%) than pastures without livestock (38%). Researchers observed no direct negative impacts (such as trampling) of livestock on nesting sage grouse.
Brood success was higher for broods hatched in pastures with livestock (79%) than without livestock (61%). The researchers noted: "The mechanism driving this is unknown; it may have resulted from behavioral avoidance of livestock by predators, or reflect predator control efforts in areas with livestock."
"Our results provide further evidence that livestock presence on the landscape can benefit nesting and brood-rearing sage-grouse."
Mortality to adult hens was attributed primarily to avian predators (40%), followed by mammalian predators (27%). No mortalities were attributed to collisions with fences or power lines.
The researchers noted: "Traditional family-owned ranching operations, the predominant local stakeholders in the Core Area, have historically managed land in a manner that is compatible with sage-grouse conservation and are well-poised to collaborate with wildlife and range professionals to maintain and improve sage-grouse habitat."
"Our results concur with research elsewhere that livestock grazing is compatible with sage-grouse conservation."
A Billings Gazette article about the study can be found in the links below, as well as the report of the research details.
Billings Gazette - Read the article here.
Sage Grouse Research report - Read the report here. (Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management, studies done 2011-2013 (2014)