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 would like to do more small mammal research. Please contact us with ideas for collaboration. (Click here to contact us.)
Successful hunters dot the woods with gut piles and carcasses. By strapping game cameras to trees, we can learn how scavengers use this leftover flesh. Last year, we ran a pilot study asking hunters to put game cameras near the gut piles and carcasses they left in the field. We had so much success and interest from hunters in western Montana that this year we will include hunters from anywhere in the United States.
If you already own a camera, this should be easy. If you leave a carcass or gut pile, deploy the game camera on a tree, fencepost, or stake. Once you’ve retrieved the camera, we will collect data from your photos. Before you get started, please let us know if you plan to participate and we’ll send you a few simple guidelines.
If you don’t have a camera but live in western Montana, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We may be able to loan you one.
The animals that visit gut piles sometimes have teeth and claws. Although you are unlikely to encounter these predators, we want to prevent unsafe situations.
In areas where bears frequent, please wait at least two weeks before retrieving the camera. If you can wait longer, please do. Waiting until the spring is perfectly acceptable and sometimes provides useful observations. It is best to return with at least one companion. When you are close to the kill site, stop, look, and listen. If the area appears safe, slowly approach while making noise. If you have it, carry bear spray with you. Please do not set up cameras in areas that have dense cover and a high density of grizzly bears.
If you are outside Montana, please check your state hunting regulations to ensure setting up a game camera during hunting season is legal. If you have questions about this, please contact us. If you intend to place a camera on private property, please seek the landowner’s permission first.
Mike shot his first weapon before he could recite the alphabet. Now, understanding weapons is part of his job. His career took this trajectory after Mike gained a B.S. in Environmental Chemistry. Curious about potential pollution at a historic shooting range at MPG Ranch, he earned an M.S. in Geosciences studying the site. Strangely, the sulfur inside the trap and skeet targets posed the main threat, not the lead in the shotgun pellets. Regardless, lead contamination soon grabbed Mike’s focus. Each winter at MPG Ranch, biologists caught eagles that had lead coursing through their veins. Lead can cripple eagles flightless and even kill them. Mike soon initiated studies on scavenger ecology and began investigating the wound ballistics of rifle bullets, the suspected source of lead.
Mike often connects with the public through his writings and speaking engagements, whether it be to a local group of hunters, or a gymnasium full of middle schoolers. He frequently writes about the outdoors, with work appearing in The FlyFish Journal, Backcountry Journal, and Bugle. When he escapes the office, Mike explores wild landscapes with his family, always scanning the horizon for wildlife.