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Evaluating the potential for ruffed grouse restoration in east-central Missouri by linking habitat suitability and population viability

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Isabelle, J.L.; Thompson, Frank R.; Dijak, W.D.

Year Published

2016

Publication

Science and Management Technical Series. 10. Jefferson City, MO: Missouri Department of Conservation. 20 p.

Abstract

Ruffed grouse Bonasa umbellus (hereafter, grouse) are early-successional forest habitat (ESFH) specialists that prefer regenerating deciduous forests < 25 years-of-age for cover. Despite being historically present through-out much of Missouri, USA, grouse numbers declined rapidly during the early 1900s due to habitat loss and over-harvest. Although populations of grouse were reestablished in Missouri through translocations which began in the 1950s, grouse numbers have since declined precipitously, as they have throughout much of their southern range, due to the loss of ESFH. In response to declining grouse numbers, efforts to create ESFH were increased in the River Hills region of east-central Missouri during the early 2000s. Despite these efforts, grouse numbers have continued to decline, prompting the Missouri Department of Conservation to consider a restocking effort. Our objectives were to determine the amount of ESFH within a portion of the River Hills region and to use population viability analysis to evaluate the potential for establishing a self-sustaining grouse population through restocking. We used land use land cover and light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data to assess ESFH availability at three spatial scales within the River Hills region: a 319,100 ha study area, a 23,300 ha focal area, and Daniel Boone (DBCA; 1,424 ha) and Little Lost Creek (LLCCA; 1,173 ha) Conservation Areas. We conducted a population viability analysis to evaluate the potential for grouse population establish-ment given varying amounts of ESFH. Habitat analyses indicated 3.4% of the study area and 5.2% of the focal area consisted of ESFH < 7.62 m tall (approximately ≤ 25 years-of-age); 4.4% and 9.9% of DBCA and LLCCA consisted of ESFH, respectively. Population simulations under current habitat conditions in the focal area indicated a restocked grouse population would decline to zero by about year 20 post-release, and there was a 0.99 probability of extinction by year 50 post-release. When 25% of DBCA and LLCCA consisted of ESFH, the simulated grouse population grew slowly over 50 years and the probability of extinction decreased to 0.26. We suggest it is highly unlikely that a self-sustaining grouse population could be established under current habitat conditions, but with increased habitat management, a grouse population could be sustained in the region.

Citation

Isabelle, J.L.; Thompson, F.R. III; Dijak, W.D. 2016. Evaluating the potential for ruffed grouse restoration in east-central Missouri by linking habitat suitability and population viability. Science and Management Technical Series. 10. Jefferson City, MO: Missouri Department of Conservation. 20 p.

Last updated on: September 7, 2016