Population growth for species with long lifespans and low reproductive rates (i.e., K-selected species) is influenced primarily by both survival of adult females and survival of young. Because survival of adults and young is influenced by habitat quality and resource availability, it is important for managers to understand factors that influence habitat selection during the period of reproduction. My thesis contains two chapters addressing this issue for K-selected species in Utah. Chapter one evaluates habitat selection of greater sage-grouse (Centrocercusurophasianus) on Diamond Mountain during the critical nesting and brood-rearing period. Chapter two address selection of birth sites by bison (Bison bison) on Antelope Island, Utah. We collected micro-habitat data for 88 nests and 138 brood locations of greater sage-grouse from 2010-2012 to determine habitat preferences of nesting and brooding sage-grouse. Using random forests modeling techniques, we found that percent sagebrush, percent canopy cover, percent total shrubs, and percent obscurity (Robel pole) best differentiated nest locations from random locations with selection of higher values in each case. We used a 26-day nesting period to determine an average nest survival rate of 0.35 (95% CI = 0.23 – 0.47) for adults and 0.31 (95% CI = 0.14 – 0.50) for juvenile grouse.Brood sites were closer to habitat edges, contained more forbs and less rock than random locations. Average annual adult female survival across the two-year study period was 0.52 (95% CI= 0.38 – 0.65) compared to 0.43 (95% CI= 0.28 – 0.59) for yearlings.Brooding and nesting habitat at use locations on Diamond Mountain met or exceeded published guidelines for everything but forb cover at nest sites. Adult and juvenile survival rates were in line with average values from around the range whereas nest success was on the low end of reported values. For bison, we quantified variables surrounding 35 birth sites and 100 random sites during 2010 and 2011 on Antelope Island State Park. We found females selected birth sites based on landscape attributes such as curvature and elevation, but also distance to anthropogenic features (i.e., human structures such as roads or trails). Models with variables quantifying the surrounding vegetation received no support.Coefficients associated with top models indicated that areas near anthropogenic features had a lower probability of selection as birth sites. Our model predicted 91% of observed birth sites in medium-high or high probability categories. This model of birthing habitat, in cooperation with data of birth timing, provides biologists with a map of high-probability birthing areas and a time of year in which human access to trails or roads could be minimized to reduce conflict between recreation and female bison.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Plant and Wildlife Sciences



Date Submitted


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Antelope Island State Park, Diamond Mountain, human disturbance, nest survival, random forests, reproductive habitat, sagebrush, sage-grouse, sage-grouse management guidelines