Landscape Collaborative Grazing and Greater Sage Grouse Survival

2014 Annual Report for SW13-056

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2013: $339,552.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Region: Western
State: Montana
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Bok Sowell
MSU- Animal & Range Sciences

Landscape Collaborative Grazing and Greater Sage Grouse Survival


We captured 51 female sage-grouse off of five leks in April 2014.  We tracked 42 hens during the pre-nesting, nesting, and brood-rearing seasons. We located 44 nests with an apparent nesting probability of 84%.  Average nesting success was 43% (19/44) and average brood survival to 30 days was 37% (7/19). Nest success in basin big sagebrush was 13%, 50% in threetip sagebrush, and 62% in mountain big sagebrush. We only had eight sage-grouse which nested in areas scheduled for our grazing treatments. Differences in nesting success was similar between grazed (50%) and non-grazed areas (50%). Therefore, we have modified our original study design to include other grazing areas when cattle are present during the brood-rearing period. We are now taking vegetation samples in areas occupied by sage-grouse and cattle before and after grazing. 

Objectives/Performance Targets

  1. Organize annual meetings of Project Team, Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks (MFWP), BLM, and NRCS representatives for the life of the project and discuss objectives and milestones for upcoming year.
    1.  Completed – we have had three organizational meetings.
  2. Recruit graduate students.
    1. Graduate students Kyle Cutting (Ph.D.) and Sean Schroff (M.S.) have both completed their first year.
  3. Capture 25 – 50 female birds on two leks and attach collars (25 – 50 birds total). Test tracking equipment. Winter year. 
    1. Completed – captured 51 female sage-grouse off of five leks.
  4. Measure sagebrush cover and herbaceous cover in areas before cattle are introduced. Spring Year 1.
    1. Completed in one area, but had to modify this approach where grazing was controlled by other producers.
  5. Measure herbaceous vegetation use every 3-4 days during grazing period.
    1. This procedure has been modified to measuring vegetation before and after grazing in areas of light, moderate, and heavy use.
  6. Impose grazing treatments in areas with highest bird densities (two controls and two grazing treatments).
    1. Following capture, the sage-grouse dispersed to 50,000 acres of land, making the construction of small pastures impractical. 
  7. Measure sagebrush cover and herbaceous cover at the nest. Spring Year 1.
    1. Completed.
  8. Temporary fence for grazed pastures to match new bird locations.
    1. Following capture, the sage-grouse scattered over 50,000 acres of land, making the construction of small pastures impractical. However, we still have birds in areas with no grazing and in areas with livestock grazing, so we can still test the effects of cattle grazing on sage-grouse brood survival without constructing small pastures.
  9. Measure nesting success in grazed and control areas. Spring Year 1.
    1. We only had eight nests in areas grazed by livestock.
  10. Determine juvenile survival of broods in both treatments. Summer Year 1 .
    1. Completed in areas with and without livestock grazing.
  11. Determine hen survival through the first growing season of each treatment.
    1. Completed in areas with and without livestock grazing.
  12. Analyze data from first year.
    1. In progress.
  13. Capture more birds in second winter to replace lost collars and birds.
    1. Upcoming.
  14. Complete annual report and share through MSU, SGI initiative network (SGI website, NRCS staff, NRCS publications), Centennial Valley Association (CVA) websites, Dillon Area Sage-grouse Local Working Group (LWG) meeting, and the Conservancy website.
    1. In progress.
  15. Host a seasonal field day in the summer.
    1. Completed.  September 11, 2014 – 35 field participants including producers, state, and federal agencies, along with non-profits in attendance. June 5, 2014 – 30 participants including private, state, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USF&WS) administrators.
  16. Repeat objectives 1-14 for the second year. 
    1. In progress or upcoming.


  1. Year 1 sage-grouse capture and habitat use recorded.
  2. Annual Field Days – two in 2014 (June 5 and September 11, 2014).

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

  1. Informed state and federal agencies and private producers of importance of sagebrush types in management considerations.
  2. Local livestock producer participation expanded to larger area.
  3. BLM and Hormay grant obtained to expand the study into the winter seasons and examine the habitat links between seasons.
  4. USF&WS grant application submitted to expand landscape level approach.
  5. USF&WS grant obtained to hire recent college graduate for future full-time employment within F&WS. Candidate will work on project during 2015 season.


JP (John Paul) Tanner

[email protected]
Associate Professor, Extension Agent
Beaverhead County Extension
2 S. Pacific Street
Dillon, MT 59725
Office Phone: 4066833787
Allen & Yvonne Martinell

Lee Martinell Co
P.O. BOX 77
Dell, MT 59724-0077
Office Phone: 4062763380
Kyle Cutting

[email protected]
Wildlife Biologist
27650B South Valley Road
Lima, MT 59739
Office Phone: 4062763536
Brad Bauer

[email protected]
The Nature Conservancy
32 S. Ewing Street
Helena, MT 59601
Office Phone: 4064952267
Dr. Rachel Endecott

[email protected]
Associate Professor Animal Science - Extension Beef Specialist
MSU Animal & Range Sciences
PO Box 172900
219 ABB
Bozeman, MT 59717-2900
Office Phone: 4069943747
Bryan Ulring

[email protected]
J Bar L Ranch
80 Balkovetz Lane
Twin Bridges, MT 59754
Office Phone: 4065960600
Dr. Bok Sowell

[email protected]
Professor of Range Science
MSU Animal & Range Sciences
PO Box 172900
205 ABB
Bozeman, MT 59717-2900
Office Phone: 4069945558
Mike Frisina

[email protected]
Adjunct Instructor
MSU-Animal & Range Sciences
PO Box 172900
212 ABB
Bozeman, MT 59717-2900
Office Phone: 4069947146
Craig Carr

[email protected]
Assistant Professor
MSU-Animal & Range Sciences
PO Box 17299
319 Animal Bioscience Building
Bozeman, MT 59717-2900
Office Phone: 4069943282