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A new study using scat surveys sheds lights on the relationship between post-fire vegetation recovery and sage-grouse habitat selection

Wildfires often result in the loss of native perennials and increases in exotic annual grasses, which can create problems for wildlife that depends on fire intolerant plants. Post-fire restoration using herbicides, seeding, and planting of native perennials such as sagebrush are common in western North America, but there have been few assessments of greater sage-grouse response to these treatments. USGS, BLM, and Idaho Fish and Game researchers surveyed for sage-grouse scat in the area burned by the 2015 Soda Wildfire in Idaho and Oregon. The researchers compared the probability of sage-grouse presence to landscape features and land treatments. In general, sage-grouse scat increased with elevation, sagebrush abundance, and proximity to sagebrush seedling plantings. However, sage-grouse and scat were still scarce five years post-fire and it was difficult to draw clear conclusions about factors affecting sage-grouse recovery. Using scat to assess habitat use is a low-cost, non-invasive method for monitoring wildlife in restored landscapes but may be more effective for longer-term studies. 

Germino, M.J., Anthony, C.R., Kluender, C.R., Ellsworth, E.A., Moser, A.M., Applestein, C.V., and Fisk, M.R., 2022, Relationship of greater sage-grouse to natural and assisted recovery of key vegetation types following wildfire- insights from scat: Restoration Ecology, e13758. https://doi.org/10.1111/rec.13758