Date of Award
Master of Science
Wildlife and Fisheries Science
Craig A. Harper
David A. Buehler, Arnold Saxton
Ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) historically have been considered a bird of early successional habitats. Over the past 60 years, forests of the southern Appalachians have matured, as a result of reduced timber harvest. Because of pressure from special interest groups, the U. S. Forest Service no longer uses the clearcutting method of regeneration. Use of forest stands created by alternative silvicultural techniques by grouse is unknown. The primary objective of this study was to determine grouse use of various forest types and stand ages, including stands regenerated by shelterwood, 2-aged shelterwood, and group selection early after harvest.
Eighty-five grouse were captured in Fall 1999 and Spring 2000 with interception and mirror traps with a trap success rate of 1.2 birds/100 trap nights. Mesic pole stands (11– 39 years old) were preferred over mature stands (≥40 years old) and sapling stands (≤10 years old) for year-round habitat use. Males had an average annual home range of 43 ha (106 ac), a fall-winter range of 51 ha (126 ac), and a spring-summer range of 32 ha (79 ac). Females had an average annual home range 66 ha (163 ac), a fall-winter range of 64 ha (158 ac), and a spring-summer range of 46 ha (114 ac). Male grouse had an average day-use area of 1.5 ha (4 ac), while females typically stayed within 0.8 ha (2 ac).
A spring drumming census suggested there were 2 birds/100 ha in 1999 and 4 birds/100 ha in 2000. Drumming logs were most often located on ridge tops in mature stands with a dense mid-story of mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) or flame azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum). Vegetation and topographic sampling suggested micro-site selection did not affect trap success, however, traps located in edge habitat were more successful than traps in mature stands. The annual mortality rate was 62%. Ten mortalities were believed to be caused by avian predators, 18 by mammalian predators, 6 grouse were killed by hunters, and 9 by other causes.
Management recommendations should prescribe timber harvests in mesic forest stands to benefit ruffed grouse. Cuts should be separated both in time and space and be positioned near mature oak-hickory and/or northern hardwood stands when possible. Cuts should be located on mid- to lower slopes to provide early successional habitat, while leaving selected ridge tops uncut to provide suitable drumming log habitat. Logging roads and openings should be planted in a clover and annual grass mixture to establish quality herbaceous openings used by grouse for winter feeding and spring/summer brood rearing.
Schumacher, Carrie L., "Ruffed Grouse Habitat Use in Western North Carolina. " Master's Thesis, University of Tennessee, 2002.