Monitoring is a survey repeated through time to determine changes in the status of species, habitats, or ecological communities. In order to know whether management actions are having the desired effects, it is necessary to monitor actual outcomes and progress toward objectives. For example, wildlife populations that are identified as priorities in a station’s management plan are monitored to determine their status or estimate a trend in population size, survival and/or reproduction in response to refuge management. Changes in the status of a wildlife population or habitat attribute may also be used to trigger a management action.

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CMR staff monitor certain habitat parameters and wildlife species on an annual basis. Big game species such as bighorn sheep, elk and mule deer are surveyed at specific times of the year to determine population density, distribution and sex ratios.


 sharp-tail dancingSince 1989 sharp-tail grouse and sage grouse are monitored every April using listening surveys and lek counts. Listening surveys are used because sharp-tail grouse leks may move from year to year. Using established stations, an observer listens for sharp-tailed grouse and records presence or absence at each station. When populations are high, more birds make more sounds and new satellite leks become established, all contributing to hearing birds at a higher proportion of listening stations. The opposite is true when populations are low.


Habitat monitoring on the Refuge inludes monitoring residual grass cover to ensure nesting and roosting cover for sharp-tailed grouse and other grassland obligate birds. Livestock exclosures were developed in many of the 65 habitat units. The goal of habitat management on the refuge has been to provide, outside the exclosures, at least 70 percent of the grass cover that is inside the exclosures. Measurements are taken after the grazing season. A cover pole or height–density pole is observed from set distances and angles at points along transects, in and out of the exclosures, to measure the comparison. The Service has been monitoring residual grass cover since 1986, and has also been increasingly emphasizing sentinel plant monitoring in recent years.