Studying winter backcountry recreation patterns

During winter 2009, we are quantifying backcountry
recreation patterns in the Tetons in order to determine if GPS-collared bighorn sheep are avoiding winter travel routes, even if those routes fall within bighorn sheep habitat.

We are implementing a relatively new technique to measure backcountry recreation: recruiting backcountry users to carry handheld GPS tracking units with them while they are travelling in the backcountry. These GPS units provide us with detailed tracks of human backcountry use that we can easily incorporate into a model as a variable predicting bighorn sheep habitat use.

In early March 2009, we successfully captured and GPS-collared an additional 8 bighorn sheep ewes in the Teton Range. Six of the ewes were collared between Jensen Canyon and Prospectors Mountain, in the southern portion of the herd where the majority of winter recreation takes place.
This portion of the study will provide us with current information regarding backcountry recreation patterns in the Tetons. These data will help wildlife managers in balancing bighorn sheep winter habitat requirements and backcountry recreation opportunities, ensuring the continuation of both in the future.