The Status, Habitat, and Response to Grazing of Water Vole Populations in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming, U.S.A.
Tags: Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, WLCI Related Publication
Microtus richardsoni, the water vole, was listed as a sensitive species in Region 2 of the USDA Forest Service in 1994. Historical records indicate water voles were found in the Big Horn Mountains, but little was known about their current status. The purpose of this study was to locate water voles in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming, develop a habitat profile, and evaluate the extent to which livestock grazing affects them. Accessible creeks with habitat requirements for water voles were surveyed. Water voles were not captured below 2440 m. Grazed and ungrazed sites occupied by water voles were matched and analyzed for percent plant cover, dry weight biomass, riparian classification, mean stream depth, channel type, elevation, precipitation, and temperature. Capture success was significantly greater in ungrazed areas. Percent cover by ferns and thallophytes was significantly greater in areas where water voles were more abundant, and bare ground was significantly greater at grazed locations. Water voles were most abundant on Rosgen B or E streams with a willow/wet Carex riparian class that is found on relatively undisturbed sites with stable, well-developed soils and bank structure. In the Big Horn Mountains, water vole captures were low in comparison to the Beartooth Mountains and synergistic effects of grazing and drying might negatively impact this species.