Wasatch Wildlife Watch

The Central Wasatch Range (CWR) in northeastern Utah serves as an island-like oasis for wildlife, providing separation from surrounding desert and urban sprawl, and is a contributing factor to Utah’s position as the tenth most biologically diverse state in the country, even though Utah is also the second driest state in the country. However, the CWR also comprises some of the most highly recreated national forests and wilderness in the country, with roughly six million visitors per year, more than all five of Utah's national parks combined. Additionally, the CWR provides fresh water to over five-hundred thousand people and is located adjacent to one of the fastest growing populations in the United States, the Salt Lake Valley. Consequently, Utah ranks fifth across states in percentage of species at risk of extinction. Amidst increasing anthropogenic development and human population increase, this land and its ability to sustain a rich wildlife community may be in jeopardy. To protect the integrity of the CWR’s wilderness and wildlife community and to inform future landscape-level planning decisions, large scale research throughout the CWR is urgently needed.

The goals of this project are to: 1) create a robust, accessible body of data concerning the CWR for wildlife managers and researchers; 2) establish a successful, sustainable citizen science program; and 3) determine how to best manage and protect the Central Wasatch Range’s (CWR) wildlife community in the face of increasing anthropogenic development by:
a) Quantifying how medium-large mammals and terrestrial-bound birds at sites within the CWR are impacted by varying degrees of human development; b) Identifying priority areas located on the landscape to improve or maintain habitat connectivity for wildlife movement; and c) Identifying behavioral consequences, or adaptations, for mammal species inhabiting a human-dominated landscape, elucidating the main natural history traits that contribute to these changes.

The Utah State University Cougar Project (Bear River Range sub-project) is an undergraduate research endeavor dedicated to the monitoring of cougars and their prey species in the Bear River Range along a wildland-urban interface. This large carnivore faces extensive pressure from encroaching human development in environmental areas. This project aims to study the spatial ecology of cougars in natural and metropolitan regions to try and quantify the effects of urbanization on this species. Our goal is to understand how Utah's species respond to a changing ecosystem from various environmental pressures. Help our project by analyzing trail camera photos of wildlife. By classifying each species captured in our project's photos, we will be able to provide vital data to assist cougar conservation in northeastern Utah. If you have any questions or need more information check out our 'USU Cougar Project' Facebook page where we post frequent project updates. Thank you for your interest!

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