Distribution, habitat selection and survival of transplanted Columbian sharp-tailed grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus columbianus) in the Tobacco Valley, Montana
Distribution, habitat use and survival of transplanted Columbian sharp-tailed grouse in the Tobacco Plains, Montana were studied from April, 1990 to August, 1991. For transplant purposes, 12 grouse (5 female and 7 male) were trapped on dancing grounds near Douglas Lake, British Columbia, Canada during spring, 1990. In April, 1991, trapping of 4 female and 2 male grouse for transplant occurred on the Sand Creek Wildlife Management Area in southeast Idaho while 3 additional males were transplanted from Douglas Lake. Minimum annual survival of transplanted grouse in the Tobacco Plains is relatively high (47%). High survival is possible due to 2 factors: 1) topography and habitat characteristics that discourage dispersal and 2) the presence of limited but relatively good habitat. Two of 18 radio-equipped grouse dispersed out of the study area, while 2 others survived in the area for over 590 days. A negative correlation in distances moved between consecutive relocations and length of survival was seen in radio-equipped grouse in this study. Data collected during this study showed the importance of habitat associated with the Dancing Prairie Preserve. Three of 5 females transplanted in 1990 attempted to nest after being released. Nesting and brood rearing sites were characterized by dense grass cover with an average effective height > or = 20 cm. Shrub cover was associated only with brood rearing sites. Overall habitat use by transplanted Columbian Sharp-tailed grouse showed an apparent avoidance of agricultural land and use of other habitat types in proportion to their availability.