South Greeley, WY, United States
South Greeley, WY, United States

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Newby J.R.,University of Montana | Scott Mills L.,University of Montana | Ruth T.K.,Wildlife Conservation Society | Pletscher D.H.,University of Montana | And 4 more authors.
Biological Conservation | Year: 2013

An understanding of how stressors affect dispersal attributes and the contribution of local populations to multi-population dynamics are of immediate value to basic and applied ecology. Puma (Puma concolor) populations are expected to be influenced by inter-population movements and susceptible to human-induced source-sink dynamics. Using long-term datasets we quantified the contribution of two puma populations to operationally define them as sources or sinks. The puma population in the Northern Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (NGYE) was largely insulated from human-induced mortality by Yellowstone National Park. Pumas in the western Montana Garnet Mountain system were exposed to greater human-induced mortality, which changed over the study due to the closure of a 915km2 area to hunting. The NGYE's population growth depended on inter-population movements, as did its ability to act as a source to the larger region. The heavily hunted Garnet area was a sink with a declining population until the hunting closure, after which it became a source with positive intrinsic growth and a 16× increase in emigration. We also examined the spatial and temporal characteristics of individual dispersal attributes (emigration, dispersal distance, establishment success) of subadult pumas (N=126). Human-caused mortality was found to negatively impact all three dispersal components. Our results demonstrate the influence of human-induced mortality on not only within population vital rates, but also inter-population vital rates, affecting the magnitude and mechanisms of local population's contribution to the larger metapopulation. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.


Lendrum P.E.,Panthera | Elbroch L.M.,Panthera | Quigley H.,Panthera | Thompson D.J.,Wyoming Game and Fish | And 2 more authors.
Journal of Zoology | Year: 2014

Cougars Puma concolor are described as 'habitat generalists', but little is known about which ecological factors drive their home range selection. For example, how do resource distributions and inter-species competition with dominant competitors (i.e. wolves, Canis lupus) over such resources, influence the distributions of cougars on the landscape? We tracked cougars using Very High Frequency (VHF; 2001 to 2005) and GlobalPositioningSystem (GPS; 2006 to 2011) technology in the Southern Yellowstone Ecosystem (SYE) in northwestern Wyoming, USA. We tested whether data type (VHF vs. GPS), cougar sex, access to forests (refugia) or hunt opportunity explained the size of 50% and 95% kernel density estimator (KDE) home ranges. Second, we quantified attributes of cougar home ranges and tested whether they were different from attributes of the overall study area, to address the ecological question: Do cougars select home ranges based on the availability of refugia, hunt opportunity or some combination of the two? Cougar sex and data type proved significant predictors of home range size for both 95% and 50% KDEs, and the amount of forest partly explained the size of 50% KDEs. Cougar home ranges derived from VHF data were 1.4-1.9 times larger than home ranges derived from GPS data; however, home range attributes determined from VHF and GPS data were remarkably equivalent. Female cougars selected home ranges with higher hunt opportunity than males, supporting the assumption that females primarily select home ranges with suitable prey to sustain themselves and their young. All cougars selected home ranges further from known wolf packs, providing evidence for newly established competition between resident cougars and recolonizing wolves, but did not select home ranges with greater access to landscape refugia. Our results provided evidence that cougars in the SYE select home ranges that provide high hunting opportunity and a spatial buffer that mitigates potential conflicts with a dominant competitor. © 2014 The Zoological Society of London.


Elbroch L.M.,Panthera | Lendrum P.E.,Panthera | Newby J.,Craighead Beringia South | Quigley H.,Panthera | Craighead D.,Craighead Beringia South
PLoS ONE | Year: 2013

We tested for seasonal differences in cougar (Puma concolor) foraging behaviors in the Southern Yellowstone Ecosystem, a multi-prey system in which ungulate prey migrate, and cougars do not. We recorded 411 winter prey and 239 summer prey killed by 28 female and 10 male cougars, and an additional 37 prey items by unmarked cougars. Deer composed 42.4% of summer cougar diets but only 7.2% of winter diets. Males and females, however, selected different proportions of different prey; male cougars selected more elk (Cervus elaphus) and moose (Alces alces) than females, while females killed greater proportions of bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis), pronghorn (Antilocapra americana), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and small prey than males. Kill rates did not vary by season or between males and females. In winter, cougars were more likely to kill prey on the landscape as: 1) elevation decreased, 2) distance to edge habitat decreased, 3) distance to large bodies of water decreased, and 4) steepness increased, whereas in summer, cougars were more likely to kill in areas as: 1) elevation decreased, 2) distance to edge habitat decreased, and 3) distance from large bodies of water increased. Our work highlighted that seasonal prey selection exhibited by stationary carnivores in systems with migratory prey is not only driven by changing prey vulnerability, but also by changing prey abundances. Elk and deer migrations may also be sustaining stationary cougar populations and creating apparent competition scenarios that result in higher predation rates on migratory bighorn sheep in winter and pronghorn in summer. Nevertheless, cougar predation on rare ungulates also appeared to be influenced by individual prey selection. © 2013 Elbroch et al.


Mark Elbroch L.,Panthera | Lendrum P.E.,Panthera | Newby J.,Craighead Beringia South | Quigley H.,Panthera | Thompson D.J.,Wyoming Game and Fish
Zoological Studies | Year: 2015

Background: Niche differentiation may betray current, ongoing competition between two sympatric species or reflect evolutionary responses to historic competition that drove species apart. The best opportunity to test whether ongoing competition contributes to niche differentiation is to test for behavioral shifts by the subordinate competitor in controlled experiments in which the abundance of the dominant competitor is manipulated. Because these circumstances are difficult to coordinate in natural settings for wide-ranging species, researchers seize opportunities presented by species reintroductions. We tested for new competition between reintroduced wolves and resident cougars in the Southern Yellowstone Ecosystem to assess whether wolves might be impacting the realized niche of sympatric cougars. Results: Between 2002 and 2012, a period during which wolves increased from 15 to as high as 91 in the study area, cougars significantly increased the percentage of deer and decreased the percentage of elk in their diet in summer. Our top models explaining these changes identified elk availability, defined as the number of elk per wolf each year, as the strongest predictor of changing cougar prey selection. Both elk and deer were simultaneously declining in the system, though deer more quickly than elk, and wolf numbers increased exponentially during the same time frame. Therefore, we concluded that prey availability did not explain prey switching and that competition with wolves at least partially explained cougar prey switching from elk to deer. We also recorded 5 marked cougar kittens killed by wolves and 2 more that were killed by an undetermined predator. In addition, between 2005 and 2012, 9 adult cougars and 10 cougar kittens died of starvation, which may also be in part explained by competition with wolves. Conclusions: Direct interspecific predation and shifting cougar prey selection as wolves increased in the system provided evidence for competition between recolonizing wolves and resident cougars. Through competition, recolonizing wolves have impacted the realized niche of resident cougars in the Southern Yellowstone Ecosystem (SYE), and current resident cougars may now exhibit a realized niche more reflective of an era when these species were previously sympatric in the Yellowstone Ecosystem. © 2015 Elbroch et al.


Bartnick T.D.,University of Wisconsin - Madison | van Deelen T.R.,University of Wisconsin - Madison | Quigley H.B.,Panthera | Craighead D.,Craighead Beringia South
Canadian Journal of Zoology | Year: 2013

We examined predation habits of cougars (Puma concolor (L., 1771)) following the recent recovery of gray wolves (Canis lupus L., 1758) in the southern Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. With the extirpation of wolves in the early 20th century, cougars likely expanded their niche space to include space vacated by wolves, and increased use of habitat better suited to the foraging of a coursing predator, like wolves. We predicted that as wolves recolonized their former range, competitive exclusion would compel cougars to cede portions of niche space occupied in the absence of wolves. To examine this hypothesis, we radio-tracked cougars and examined their predation sites from winter 2000-2001 through summer 2009. Variation in foraging by cougars was associated with increasing wolf presence. As wolf numbers increased and the mean distance between wolf pack activity centers and cougar predation sites decreased, cougars made kills at higher elevations on more north-facing slopes during summer and in more rugged areas during winter. In addition, cougars preyed on a higher proportion of mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus (Rafinesque, 1817)), consistent with predictions of exploitative competition with wolves. Observed changes in predation characteristics reflect differences in predation strategy between cougars and wolves, given that wolves are coursing predators and cougars are ambush predators. These possible predation effects should be considered when developing management strategies in systems where the recolonization of wolves may occur.


Fedy B.C.,University of Waterloo | Fedy B.C.,U.S. Geological Survey | Doherty K.E.,U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service | Aldridge C.L.,Colorado State University | And 16 more authors.
Wildlife Monographs | Year: 2015

Animal habitat selection is an important and expansive area of research in ecology. In particular, the study of habitat selection is critical in habitat prioritization efforts for species of conservation concern. Landscape planning for species is happening at ever-increasing extents because of the appreciation for the role of landscape-scale patterns in species persistence coupled to improved datasets for species and habitats, and the expanding and intensifying footprint of human land uses on the landscape. We present a large-scale collaborative effort to develop habitat selection models across large landscapes and multiple seasons for prioritizing habitat for a species of conservation concern. Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus, hereafter sage-grouse) occur in western semi-arid landscapes in North America. Range-wide population declines of this species have been documented, and it is currently considered as "warranted but precluded" from listing under the United States Endangered Species Act. Wyoming is predicted to remain a stronghold for sage-grouse populations and contains approximately 37% of remaining birds. We compiled location data from 14 unique radiotelemetry studies (data collected 1994-2010) and habitat data from high-quality, biologically relevant, geographic information system (GIS) layers across Wyoming. We developed habitat selection models for greater sage-grouse across Wyoming for 3 distinct life stages: 1) nesting, 2) summer, and 3) winter. We developed patch and landscape models across 4 extents, producing statewide and regional (southwest, central, northeast) models for Wyoming. Habitat selection varied among regions and seasons, yet preferred habitat attributes generally matched the extensive literature on sage-grouse seasonal habitat requirements. Across seasons and regions, birds preferred areas with greater percentage sagebrush cover and avoided paved roads, agriculture, and forested areas. Birds consistently preferred areas with higher precipitation in the summer and avoided rugged terrain in the winter. Selection for sagebrush cover varied regionally with stronger selection in the Northeast region, likely because of limited availability, whereas avoidance of paved roads was fairly consistent across regions. We chose resource selection function (RSF) thresholds for each model set (seasonal × regional combination) that delineated important seasonal habitats for sage-grouse. Each model set showed good validation and discriminatory capabilities within study-site boundaries. We applied the nesting-season models to a novel area not included in model development. The percentage of independent nest locations that fell directly within identified important habitat was not overly impressive in the novel area (49%); however, including a 500-m buffer around important habitat captured 98% of independent nest locations within the novel area. We also used leks and associated peak male counts as a proxy for nesting habitat outside of the study sites used to develop the models. A 1.5-km buffer around the important nesting habitat boundaries included 77% of males counted at leks in Wyoming outside of the study sites. Data were not available to quantitatively test the performance of the summer and winter models outside our study sites. The collection of models presented here represents large-scale resource-management planning tools that are a significant advancement to previous tools in terms of spatial and temporal resolution. Published 2014. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA. © 2014 The Authors. Wildlife Monographs Published by The Wildlife Society.


Bedrosian B.,Craighead Beringia South | Craighead D.,Craighead Beringia South | Crandall R.,Craighead Beringia South
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

Studies suggest hunter discarded viscera of big game animals (i.e., offal) is a source of lead available to scavengers. We investigated the incidence of lead exposure in bald eagles in Wyoming during the big game hunting season, the influx of eagles into our study area during the hunt, the geographic origins of eagles exposed to lead, and the efficacy of using non-lead rifle ammunition to reduce lead in eagles. We tested 81 blood samples from bald eagles before, during and after the big game hunting seasons in 2005-2010, excluding 2008, and found eagles had significantly higher lead levels during the hunt. We found 24% of eagles tested had levels indicating at least clinical exposure (>60 ug/dL) during the hunt while no birds did during the non-hunting seasons. We performed driving surveys from 2009-2010 to measure eagle abundance and found evidence to suggest that eagles are attracted to the study area during the hunt. We fitted 10 eagles with satellite transmitters captured during the hunt and all migrated south after the cessation of the hunt. One returned to our study area while the remaining nine traveled north to summer/breed in Canada. The following fall, 80% returned to our study area for the hunting season, indicating that offal provides a seasonal attractant for eagles. We fitted three local breeding eagles with satellite transmitters and none left their breeding territories to feed on offal during the hunt, indicating that lead ingestion may be affecting migrants to a greater degree. During the 2009 and 2010 hunting seasons we provided non-lead rifle ammunition to local hunters and recorded that 24% and 31% of successful hunters used non-lead ammunition, respectively. We found the use of non-lead ammunition significantly reduced lead exposure in eagles, suggesting this is a viable solution to reduce lead exposure in eagles. © 2012 Bedrosian et al.


Bui T.-V.D.,University of Washington | Marzluff J.M.,University of Washington | Bedrosian B.,Craighead Beringia South
Condor | Year: 2010

Anthropogenic changes in landscapes can favor generalist species adapted to human settlement, such as the Common Raven (Corvus corax), by providing new resources. Increased densities of predators can then negatively affect prey, especially rare or sensitive species. Jackson Hole and the upper Green River valley in western Wyoming are experiencing accelerated rates of human development due to tourism and natural gas development, respectively. Increased raven populations in these areas may negatively influence the Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), a sensitive sagebrush specialist. We investigated landscape-level patterns in raven behavior and distribution and the correlation of the raven data with the grouse's reproductive success in western Wyoming. In our study areas towns provide ravens with supplemental food, water, and nest sites, leading to locally increased density but with apparently limited (<3 km) movement by ravens from towns to adjacent areas of undeveloped sagebrush. Raven density and occupancy were greatest in land covers with frequent human activity. In sagebrush with little human activity, raven density near incubating and brooding sage-grouse was elevated slightly relative to that expected and observed in sagebrush not known to hold grouse. Raven occupancy near sage-grouse nests and broods was more highly correlated with sage-grouse success than were raven density and behavior, suggesting that the majority of nest predation by ravens is most likely carried out by resident territorial individuals. Integrated region-wide improvement of sagebrush habitat, removal of anthropogenic subsidies, and perhaps removal or aversive conditioning of offending ravens might benefit sage-grouse populations inour study area. © The Cooper Ornithological Society 2010.


Banack S.A.,Institute for Ethnomedicine | Metcalf J.S.,Institute for Ethnomedicine | Jiang L.,University of Stockholm | Craighead D.,Craighead Beringia South | And 2 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

Prior to the evolution of DNA-based organisms on earth over 3.5 billion years ago it is hypothesized that RNA was the primary genetic molecule. Before RNA-based organisms arose, peptide nucleic acids may have been used to transmit genetic information by the earliest forms of life on earth. We discovered that cyanobacteria produce N-(2-aminoethyl)glycine (AEG), a backbone for peptide nucleic acids. We detected AEG in axenic strains of cyanobacteria with an average concentration of 1 μg/g. We also detected AEG in environmental samples of cyanobacteria as both a free or weakly bound molecule and a tightly bound form released by acid hydrolysis, at concentrations ranging from not detected to 34 μg/g. The production of AEG by diverse taxa of cyanobacteria suggests that AEG may be a primitive feature which arose early in the evolution of life on earth. © 2012 Banack et al.


Fifty years of wildlife science has been built on transmitter-acquired data revealing local movements, long-distance migrations, home ranges sizes, habitat use, resource selection, and population size, density, survival rates and fecundity of terrestrial, avian and marine species. Introduced in 1986, the Argos satellite system was break-through technology for studying long-distance movements because of its ability to automatically acquire locations of wildlife anywhere in the world. Despite its successful track record there are obstacles that hinder the Argos system?s utility and availability. Argos has limited bandwidth for transmitting large amounts of fine-scale Global Positioning System (GPS) locations and behavioral data. Heavy batteries for generating transmissions strong enough to be received by satellites increase the instrument?s weight, and many terrestrial based study animals have difficulty transmitting to satellites due to the low trajectory of some satellites in rugged terrain and uncontrolled RF interference. High costs of purchase and data retrieval is limiting for many projects. Our proposed hybrid satellite and short-distance transceiver system overcomes bandwidth and power obstacles by retrieving most of the stored GSP locations and behavior data when the study animal returns to predictable locations such as a nest, den or frequently-used trails and feeding sites. Inexpensive, short-range transceiver stations installed at these locations can efficiently receive large archives of fine-scale GPS locations and sensor data. By integrating an Argos satellite transmitter with a short-range transceiver, onboard logic can activate the Argos transmitter if the study animal moves out of range of the transceiver stations thus alerting the biologist to the animal?s new location and the option to install an inexpensive fixed transceiver station at the new location.

Currently scientists using remote sensing data systems are restricted to off the shelf end products that must work for many different questions and systems. The most significant impact of this project is that it provides scientists the opportunity to be equal partners with the electrical engineers in developing the unique tools necessary to find answers to the complex and demanding environmental issues. Our proposed hybrid transmitter system will provide biological and earth scientists with a system that will transfer large amounts of fine-scale data very quickly from custom designed data acquisition platforms to the laboratory. In addition to solving technical issues, this proposal will overcome the obstacles of high prices and the limited features by transferring the skills to perform the final assembly and configuration of transmitters to the biologists and technicians at research organizations where there is first-hand experience and motivation to create innovative and customized combinations of batteries, antennas and attachment methods that match individual species and study objectives. Only the core circuit boards and firmware will be produced by a commercial vender which, once developed, can be produced for a fraction of the current pricing for finished satellite transmitters. Workshops at conferences and Beringia South?s Wyoming research facility will widely disseminate these valuable skills with the goal of changing the way that innovative new configurations of transmitters are designed, built and distributed.
PROJECT SUMMARY
This is an IBDR proposal to design a new and affordable type of wildlife tracking system that integrates Argos satellite tracking with short-range high data-rate transceivers and to develop a new production and distribution paradigm that will make satellite transmitters more accessible, innovative and responsive to the expanding needs of the wildlife research community.

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