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Dr. Jeffrey L Beck

Dept of Ecosystem Science and Management

Agriculture Building 2005

Department #3354

1000 E. University Ave

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307) 766-6683

Fax: (307) 766-6403

Email: jlbeck@uwyo.edu

Dr. Jeffrey L. Beck

Ecosystem Science and Management


Identifying Disturbance Mechanisms Influencing Resource Selection by Elk in a Natural Gas Development Field


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PhD. Student: Clay B. Buchanan

Project Description: Human disturbances, such as energy development are known to effect ungulate behavior and resource selection. Natural gas consumption in the United States has increased 4 times since 1950 and is steadily increasing. Approximately 2,000 coalbed natural gas (CBNG) wells will potentially be drilled (with 0.32 km2 [80 acre] spacing) in the Fortification Creek Area (FCA) of northeastern Wyoming. The FCA is a Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata wyomingensis)-dominated system of approximately 500 km2 and provides year-round habitat for a reintroduced elk (Cervus elaphus) population of about 230 individuals. Without proper mitigation, gas field development has been predicted to

dramatically reduce this population and primarily limit them to a 49-km2 wilderness study area. Our study will identify disturbance mechanisms and thresholds that influence elk resource selection in the FCA. We began capturing elk in spring 2008 to attach GPS collars that will provide relocations over 4 years. We will measure habitat characteristics (e.g., cover type, topography, distance to water) and anthropogenic disturbance (e.g., sound levels, traffic volume, gas field infrastructure) to form a set of predictor variables to model habitat selection. Modeling will be used to create a resource selection probability function (RSPF) for each elk. Predictor variable coefficients from individual RSPFs will be averaged to develop a population level model. Identified shifts in resource selection will be related to body condition, survival, and population productivity to elucidate CBNG development effects on elk population dynamics. At the conclusion of the project, we will provide suggestions to mitigate detrimental disturbance mechanisms to sustain a healthy elk population while maintaining economically viable CBNG extraction.


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Dr. Jeffrey L Beck

Dept of Ecosystem Science and Management

Agriculture Building 2005

Department #3354

1000 E. University Ave

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307) 766-6683

Fax: (307) 766-6403

Email: jlbeck@uwyo.edu

1000 E. University Ave. Laramie, WY 82071
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