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.
Click here for links to our best mammal footage.
We would like to do more small mammal research. Please contact us with ideas for collaboration. (Click here to contact us.)
Humans have exerted a major influence on plant communities across MPG Ranch that began with fires set by the Native American and continued with intensive livestock grazing, farming, and herbicide applications. The overall result of these activities is that low diversity and low productivity plant communities composed mainly of non-native plants cover many areas. In many cases the existing undesired vegetation is hardy and resistant to replacement, after all it is the stuff that has survived grazing, herbicide applications, and the ranch’s harsh climate. The updates and reports in this section show the approaches we take to figure out the best ways to restore diverse and productive plant communities. The Restoration Map under the maps heading is the best way to explore our restoration work. The map interface allows researchers to explain our methods and research in a chronological and spatial context. Abstracts and links to major updates and plans will be visible on this page.
Rangeland diversification- In some cases we use herbicide applications combined with fire and drill seeding to establish new communities.
Assisted Succession- We have also developed a new approach to restoration of weedy areas using a naturally herbicide resistant initial plant to reclaim weed infestations. The plant is called sainfoin. It is a legume that enriches the soil and allows us to kill-off the weeds seed bank before we re-plant.
Native reptiles and amphibians help maintain healthy ecosystems across MPG Ranch. Several species control rodent and insect populations. Others help regulate vegetative growth along our floodplain. The majority of juvenile herpetafauna provide quality protein for a variety of higher order predators, while many adults ultimately become a substantive meal for our largest predators. MPG Ranch provides reptile habitat for five native snakes including Bullsnakes, Common Gartersnakes, Wandering Gartersnakes, Eastern Yellow-Bellied Racers, and Northern Rubber Boas as well as one native turtle, the Western Painted Turtle. Surveyed amphibians include Columbia Spotted Frogs, Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogs, Western Toads, the invasive American Bullfrog, and Long-Toed Salamanders. Current research projects focus on the population characteristics of Western Painted Turtles at our Clubhouse Pond, Western Toad migration patterns across the breadth of the ranch, and the large-scale genetic lineages of garter snake species across Western Montana. In addition to these projects, we strive to improve, sustain, and create native habitat by controlling invasive species, enhancing habitat features and building ponds in upland draws.
Jeff Clarke's field note shows marmots, a rubber boa, and vanishing debris piles.
02-09-15 Field Note
04-28-15 Field Note