Pronghorn – Grassland Indicator
The Northern Sagebrush Steppe (NSS) is the northern terminus of sagebrush steppe and grassland habitats and is also the northern range limit for a variety of species. Through multiple anthropogenic pressures, native prairie continues to be converted and fragmented across the region and as a result, increased stress on wildlife populations and overall ecosystem function occurs. For wildlife species in this system, maintaining connectivity between seasonal ranges and core habitats is vital in mitigating environmental and anthropogenic pressures. Because pronghorn are well-distributed across the landscape, move and operate at large landscape scales, are sensitive to both environmental and anthropogenic pressures, and are highly regarded in public perception, we hypothesize that they can serve as an umbrella for other sagebrush steppe and grassland species at the periphery of their range. We used resource-selection function models to predict multi-scale pronghorn seasonal (summer/winter) range across the NSS, which provided spatial outputs of both multi-scale seasonal range habitats for pronghorn. These seasonal ranges were overlaid using GIS with seasonal range and migration pathway maps for sage grouse, as well as core habitats for grassland birds and waterfowl to assess which species or guild is the most appropriate umbrella species for the NSS. We published a paper comparing the migration pathways and proportion of pathway overlap between pronghorn and sage grouse, and a paper identifying the hazards fences pose for wildlife and the need for greater attention to the effects fences have on wildlife and ecosystems. Both papers were published in Biological Conservation. A draft manuscript on the effects of fences on the resource selection by pronghorn is currently under review. Lastly, we continue to work on the assessment of pronghorn as an indicator species for a suite of grassland species. As results from our work become available, information will be disseminated to stakeholders, wildlife managers, and conservation groups to support efforts to restore and conserve movement patterns and grassland habitats.
Alberta Environment and Parks, Montana Department of Transportation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, National Wildlife Federation, Sagebrush Science Initiative (a collaboration between the US Fish and Wildlife Services and Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies), Sage Grouse Initiative, The Nature Conservancy, University of Montana
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