Wildlife Studies

Bear Snags- Colorado Parks and Wildlife started a project in 2011 to conduct bear snags around western Larimer County to track bear patterns. They set up one of the snag areas on the MacGregor Ranch. In 2011 they were able to obtain 4 hair samples from the Ranch and that resulted in the identification of one unique black bear on the property.  Over the whole hair snag project area last year they collected 324 hair samples and identified 39 unique bears.  After some statistical analyses, they will get a ‘mark-recapture’ population estimate from the 2011 data.  In 2012 they collected 180 hair samples from the project area (the High Park Fire made access into much of the area difficult for almost half the time). The Colorado Parks and Wildlife will conduct a third and final hair snag in 2013. Stay tuned for the final results of this three year project.

Rocky Mountain Cat Conservancy- MacGregor Ranch partnered with RMCC to set up a motion camera on the ranch, which they use to capture photos and track mountain lions that come onto the ranch.  RMCC uses remote sensor cameras and lion track counts to estimate and monitor populations. The goals of this study are 1) to use cameras in targeted areas to locate radio-collared lions whose collars may have failed; 2) establish methods of population estimation that can be used throughout the state; and 3) engage volunteers of all ages to assist in the camera surveys and track counts. RMCC also works with Estes Park High School as part of their science program to involve the students in the Mountain Lion tracking and research. For more information on Mountain Lion studies visit RMCC’s web page http://catconservancy.org/.

Elk Exclosure- Seven years ago the CSU Wildlife Society set up an elk exclosure on the MacGregor Ranch to monitor the growth of vegetation without the grazing presence of elk or livestock. The exclosure was constructed over a section of the Black Canyon Creek and around an aspen grove. The exclosure allows the new aspen shoots to grow and mature before becoming damaged by the elk, which will graze on young aspen shoots. The exclosure also prevents damage to the riparian area from the elk and livestock who use the creek as a watering source. Cameras placed around the exclosure allow biologists to track the animals that access the exclosure. The information gained from this study is useful to habitat biologists and other managers for enhancing regeneration of plant communities and repairing riparian areas.

Rehabilitated Wildlife Releases- The ranch has also been involved in releases of wildlife which have been injured and then nursed back to health. Once healthy again, care providers release the animals back into the wild near where they were originally found. They also look for the right habitat to support the animal.

The ranch has participated in the release of several marmots and chipmunks, in which the ranch has the ideal habitat for.

Forestry Management- One of the most involved land stewardship projects the ranch takes on is the management of the ponderosa pine forest which exists throughout most of the ranch. This includes the mitigation of trees infected with the mountain pine beetle. Though forestry grants and the contribution of the ranch’s own funds, we successfully remove hundreds beetle trees each year. The smaller trees are mulched where they are cut, and the larger trees are milled either on the ranch or at larger sawmills to be turned into usable lumber. With the lumber from the cut beetle trees, we have installed a new barn floor and repaired many buildings on the ranch. The ranch also thins large stands of trees to allow more light into the undergrowth of the ponderosa pine forest, which improves the grasses and brush within the forest, making more feedstuffs available to livestock and wildlife, while also helping lower wildfire risks.