Some of my notes from the BLM Colorado State Wildlife Meeting in Silt, Colorado, September 11 - September 13, 2018.

Habitat Assessment Framework (HAF)

Presentation by Joel Humphries, BLM State Office Monitoring Coordinator.

The HAF is a habitat assessment tool that was created to help land managers make decisions on multiple scales. The scales are:

  • Broad Scale (First Order) - “The broad-scale (first-order) habitat selection is the rangewide potential presettlement habitat of both species of sage-grouse… Connelly et al. (2004) discussed first-order sagegrouse habitat suitability in terms of characteristics such as availability of large expanses of sagebrush or grass/sagebrush habitat, presence of migration corridors, and juxtaposition of other habitats and land uses within these large expanses.”
  • Mid Scale (Second Order) - “Second-order habitat descriptions are linked to bird dispersal capabilities in population and subpopulation areas….At the second order, sage-grouse occupancy and dispersal are dependent on the extent and pattern of sagebrush shrublands within a landscape matrix of nonhabitat and unsuitable habitat.”
    1. “Suitable habitats within landscapes have connected mosaics of sagebrush shrublands that allow for bird dispersal and migration movements within the population and subpopulation area. Anthropogenic disturbances that can disrupt dispersal or cause mortality are generally not widespread or are absent. “
    2. “Marginal habitats within landscapes have patchy, fragmented, sagebrush shrublands or grasslands/sagebrush areas that are not well connected for dispersal and migration in portions of the population or subpopulation area.”
    3. “Unsuitable habitats often include large areas of former shrublands that have been largely converted to annual grasslands or shrublands or other land uses.”
  • Fine Scale (Third Order) - “Sage-grouse select seasonal habitats (third-order habitats) within their home ranges, including breeding, summer, and winter habitats. For many wildlife species with large home ranges, including sage-grouse, seasonal life requisite needs differ, and movement is required to meet seasonal shelter and food needs.”
  • Site Scale (Fourth Order) - “Habitat suitability at the site scale (fourth order) describes the more detailed vegetation indicators of seasonal habitat such as canopy cover and height of sagebrush (nesting and wintering); the associated understory vegetation (breeding, nesting, and early brood-rearing); and vegetation associated with riparian areas, wet meadows, and other mesic habitats adjacent to sagebrush”.

We talked a lot about delineating habitat. A thought: to delineate habitat for sage-grouse: it would be good to use GPS data within critical habitat. To get a good classification of habitat it would be good to cut the habitat into squares that are more finely rasterized and then combine all of the squares. That way we could potential find habitats that are disturbed, but are adequate for sage-grouse.

West Slope Mule Deer Strategy

Short notes on a presentation by Brad Petch from Colorado Parks and Wildlife on their “Mule Deer Strategy”.

Of the seven issues identified, reducing impacts of human recreation was one. Also, highways, development, predation and habitat degradation were all included.

Fawn survival ranges from 30-90%.

In Colorado, largely based on Data from the White River area, there is no evidence that deer or elk migrate in pulses like they do in Wyoming. Why the there is a difference is unclear. Interesting that Colorado deer herds migrate based on photo period and not based on green up like they do in Wyoming.

In White River they don’t see bottle neck migration, like they do in Wyoming, either (at least in White River). Much broader migratory areas occur.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife estimates that about 2% of deer are killed by highway mortality.

Starting to see more evidence that elk recruitment may be a limiting factor for populations. Decrease due to summer range disturbance.

Congregating deer, guzzlers, can increase the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease and other diseases. Recommendation was only put in guzzlers if there is a good reason for it instead of doing it because we have always done it.