Assessing the Quality of Ruffed Grouse Habitat in a Managed Early-Successional Mixed Hardwood Forest at Lake Alice Wildlife Management Area, Chazy, NY
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Ruffed grouse Bonasa umbellus are valuable upland game birds that are found in early-successional upland forests consisting of trees such as aspen Populus spp. that form dense stands. Grouse utilize saplings found in this young forest habitat as cover from predation, while tree buds, catkins, and leaves constitute the majority of their dietary requirements. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation established a clear cut management site at Lake Alice Wildlife Management Area (LAWMA) in the early 1970s in order to improve ruffed grouse habitat, primarily for increased hunting opportunities. In the fall of 2016, I began to research this site in an attempt to determine the current quality of the habitat. I conducted a vegetation composition and density analysis in three out of the five stands using fixed circular plots. I conducted grouse flush count surveys over nine weeks, counting the number of grouse flushes I encountered every hour. Average vegetation data supports that the area holds adequate stem density for grouse protection (4,942 stems per hectare, as suggested by DeStefano et al. (2001)). The clear-cut is heavily dominated by American elm Ulmus americana, and not aspen, although aspen are present. Flush data from the 2016-2017 hunting season shows that the number of flushes per hour collected at the site were higher than the state average from the previous hunting season, and even topped the average for the surrounding Champlain Valley and Transition region (NYSDEC 2016b). This data suggests that a healthy grouse population and grouse habitat exists at the site.
Student poster, Center for Earth and Environmental Science, SUNY Plattsburgh