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Using Pellet Groups To Assess Response Of Elk and Deer to Roads and Energy Development

Author(s): Stephen L. Webb | Matthew R. Dzialak | Robert G. Osborn | Seth M. Harju | John Wondzell | Larry Hayden-Wing | Jeffery B. Winstead

Journal: Wildlife Biology in Practice
ISSN 1646-1509

Volume: 7;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 32;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: Cervus elaphus | Colorado | energy development | Odocoileus spp. | pellet-group counts | resource use | Rocky Mountain elk | spatial distributions

Development and extraction of resources such as oil and gas has directly and indirectly reduced available habitat to wildlife through changes in behavior and resource use. To assess how elk (Cervus elaphus) and deer (Odocoileus spp.) were spatially distributed relative to roads and coal-bed natural gas well pads, we collected pellet group data during 2 summers in south-central Colorado. We used generalized linear mixed models to assess the relative probability of use of elk and deer in relation to roads and well pads. We found relative probability of use was positively associated with distance from roads, indicating greater use of areas farther away from roads. Relative probability of use was negatively associated with distance to well pads, potentially as a result of plant phenology and reseeding in disturbed areas around well pads. Other factors such as elevation, slope and vegetative security cover also influenced elk and deer spatial distributions. Based on these data, it appears resource use may be driven by forage and security cover more than disturbance features. Pellet group surveys appear to be an appropriate technique for evaluating resource use of populations across large spatial extents when logistical and financial constraints limit the use of more advanced technology such as very high frequency and global positioning system collars.
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