Movement and habitat use by Gunnison sage grouse, Centrocercus minimus, in southwestern Colorado

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Commons, Michelle L.
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Isolated populations of the Gunnison sage grouse (Centrocercus minimus) in fragmented habitats were studied from 1994 through 1996 to examine seasonal habitat use and movements near Dove Creek, Dolores County; Dry Creek Basin/Miramonte Reservoir, San Miguel County; and Green Mountain/Fruitland Mesa, Montrose County, Colorado. Use of sagebrush habitats near Dove Creek was less ($P < 0.05$) than expected based on availability except from December through February. Agricultural fields (alfalfa, beans, wheat) predominated in Dolores County and were used throughout summer. Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) and sagebrush mixed with Gambel oak (Quercus grambelli) were used in fall and winter. Habitat use did not differ ($P > 0.05$) from availability at Dry Creek Basin, but did differ ($P < 0.05$) at Miramonte Reservoir. Sage grouse at Dry Creek Basin used areas dominated by low (A. arbuscula) and big sagebrush (A. t. tridentata). Sage grouse near Miramonte Reservoir used areas dominated by mountain big sagebrush (A. t. vaseyana) and black sagebrush (A. nova). Sage grouse at Green Mountain/Fruitland Mesa used areas dominated by sagebrush and deciduous brush. Habitat use was less ($P < 0.05)$ than expected based on availability in this area. Movement by sage grouse at all 3 study areas was minimal as most remained within 5 km of lek sites throughout the year. However, some radio-marked grouse at Dry Creek Basin/Miramonte Reservoir traveled greater distances from lek sites. Most sage grouse captured in eastern Dry Creek Basin traveled approximately 14 km west to western Dry Creek Basin during summer, but returned to eastern Dry Creek Basin in fall. Sage grouse that flew to Hamilton Mesa during summer returned to Dry Creek Basin during fall. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)