Greater sage-grouse populations have decreased steadily since European settlement in western North America. Reduced availability of brood-rearing habitat has been identified as a limiting factor for many populations. We used radio-telemetry to acquire locations of sage-grouse broods from 1998 to 2012 in Strawberry Valley, Utah. Using these locations and remotely-sensed imagery, we proceeded to 1) determine which features of brood-rearing habitat could be identified using widely available, fine-scale imagery 2) assess the scale at which sage-grouse selected brood-rearing habitat in our study area, and 3) create a predictive habitat model that could be applied across our large study area to identify areas of preferred brood-rearing habitat. We used AIC model selection to evaluate support for a list of variables derived from remotely-sensed imagery. We examined the relationship of explanatory variables at three scales (45, 200, and 795 meter radii). Our top model included 10 variables (percent shrub, percent grass, percent tree, percent paved road, percent riparian, meters of sage/tree edge, meters of riparian/tree edge, distance to tree, distance to transmission lines, and distance to permanent structures). Variables from each scale were represented in our top model with the majority of scale-sensitive variables suggesting selection at the larger (795 meter) scale. When applied to our study area our top model predicted 75% of naive brood locations suggesting reasonable success using this method and widely available NAIP (National Agricultural Imagery Program) imagery. We encourage application of this method to other sage-grouse populations and species of conservation concern. The northern river otter is a cryptic semi-aquatic predator that establishes and uses latrines. Highly used river otter latrines indicate otter "activity centers" since frequency of scat deposition is thought to be correlated to frequency of habitat use. We compared an indirect method (scat counts) and a direct method (remote cameras) of determining latrine utilization in order to assess the accuracy of the commonly used indirect method. To further compare these methods we used them to examine effects of anthropogenic disturbance on otters of the Provo River in Utah. We found that overall the direct and indirect methods were highly correlated. There was significant seasonal variation in the degree of correlation between the indirect and direct methods with correlation being significantly higher in the summer. We found similar results when using these methods to examine effects of anthropogenic disturbance. For each method the distance of the latrine to trails was significant in one of the top competing models. We suggest that space use of otters in our study area is being affected by anthropogenic disturbance as measured by distance to trails. We also suggest that scat counts should only be conducted during the summer when they correlate best with actual levels of otter activity.
College and Department
Life Sciences; Plant and Wildlife Sciences
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Westover, Matthew D., "Habitat Selection of Greater Sage-Grouse Centrocercus urophasianus and Northern River Otters Lontra canadensis in Utah" (2012). All Theses and Dissertations. 3937.
sage-grouse, Centrocercus urophasianus, river otter, Lontra canadensis, habitat selection, brood, anthropogenic disturbance, NAIP, Strawberry, Provo River, scat, camera