Great Plains Natural Science Society


The Prairie Naturalist

Date of this Version


Document Type



The Prairie Naturalist 46:21–33; 2014


Published by the Great Plains Natural Science Society. Used by permission.


Ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) are native upland game birds and a management indicator species (MIS) for aspen (Populus tremuloides) in the Black Hills National Forest (Black Hills). Our objective was to assess resource selection of male ruffed grouse to identify the most appropriate scale to manage for aspen and ruffed grouse in the Black Hills. During spring 2007 and 2008, we conducted drumming surveys throughout the central and northern Black Hills to locate used and unused sites from which we compared habitat characteristics at increasing spatial scales. Aspen with >70% overstory canopy cover (OCC) was important to the occurrence of ruffed grouse across all spatial scales, but was most influential within 1600 m of drumming sites. Probability of a site being used was maximized when 20% of the 1600-m scale (~804 ha) had aspen with >70% OCC. Ruffed grouse also selected for areas with many small, regular shaped patches of aspen over those with few large patches. At the smallest scale evaluated of 200 m (~12.5 ha), ruffed grouse selected drumming logs in close proximity to high stem densities of aspen with a minimal presence of roads. Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) had a negative influence on site selection at the 400-m (~50 ha), 1600-m (~804 ha), and 4800-m (~7200 ha) scales. Management for ruffed grouse in the Black Hills as the MIS for aspen should focus on increasing the extent of aspen with a goal of at least 20% occurrence on the landscape. Management efforts also should incorporate multiple age and size classes of aspen with an emphasis on enhancing early successional habitat to provide valuable cover through increased stem densities.