We seek to understand the distribution and abundance of mammals. Several monitoring projects are underway.
Elk- Elk numbers fluctuate through the year with herds of several hundred animals moving onto the ranch in the fall and winter. Fewer elk stay around to raise their calves in the spring and summer. We track herd size, the habitat they use for feeding, and the amount of biomass available to them for forage. We are curious about how elk habits will change in response to changes in vegetation communities as restoration activities proceed.
Bears- The lower elevation draws and drainages at MPG were de-vegetated by herbicide applications and sheep and cattle browsing. As of the summer 2012, we have planted more than 30,000 trees and shrubs in these drainages. The plantings will provide cover for animals using the draw bottoms as travel corridors between the upland forests and the floodplain forests. Many of the shrubs we have planted, such as hawthorns, choke cherries, and serviceberry, will provide food for bears. Our bear monitoring efforts seek to document how many bears we have now and where they travel.
Click here for a link to a list of mammals we have seen and photos.
We primarily use PCR DNA extraction. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a technique used in molecular biology to amplify a single copy or a few copies of a segment of DNA across several orders of magnitude, generating thousands to millions of copies of a particular DNA sequence.
December marked the start of the sixth mountain lion tracking season led by Joshua Lisbon. This year’s team is made up of all returning members, with the addition of one recruit. Winters in Montana provide the opportunity for trackers to amass non-invasive data for continued monitoring of the cougar populations that frequent our area. This video captured on a game camera deployed by Tyler Carlin shows footage of a female cougar and two kittens. DNA collected nearby will be analyzed, but we believe this is her third litter since we started this project in winter 2013-14. Based on DNA collected by trackers during the 2017-18 season, she was likely supporting two adolescents when she bred with the father of the two kittens in the video. Recent tracks indicate that the adolescent offspring are traveling together and were unharmed by the tom responsible for the kittens seen here.