Species-specific scaling to define and conserve the
Northern great plains region
Michel T. Kohl**, Boone & Crockett Wildlife Conservation Program, University of Montana,
Andrew Jakes*, Faculty of Environmental Design, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta.
Marisa K. Lipsey*, Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana.
Rebecca E. Smith*, Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana.
Kristy Bly. World Wildlife Fund – Northern Great Plains Program, Bozeman, Montana.
Dennis Jorgensen, World Wildlife Fund – Northern Great Plains Program, Bozeman, Montana.
C. Cormack Gates, Faculty of Environmental Design, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta.
Dave E. Naugle, Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana.
Shawn T. Cleveland, Matador Ranch, The Nature Conservancy, Dodson, Montana.
John C. Carlson, Bureau of Land Management, Billings Field Office, Billings, Montana.
Kelvin Johnson, Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks, Glasgow, Montana.
Prairie ecosystems are in a continuous state of flux, shifting by processes that include
variable weather patterns and climatic conditions, disturbance regimes, and more recently,
human-induced modification. Similarly, wildlife resources fluctuate across the landscape
as a result of these ever-changing conditions; however, human alterations have increased,
removed, and manipulated the ecological processes of the prairie. Specifically, the spatial
scales at which humans manage and interact with the landscape are often inconsistent
or incompatible with the scales required for the persistence of wildlife populations. Our
synthesis demonstrates how the spatial scales at which wildlife in the Northern Great Plains
of North America operate have been constrained by human intervention. This process of
anthropogenic scaling has affected the decline of many native wildlife populations and in
some cases has resulted in the complete extirpation of species from the landscape. We use
historical observations and recent quantitative data to describe the primary cause of spatial
scale alteration for prairie focal species (i.e. plains bison, pronghorn, grassland birds, Greater
Sage-grouse, black-tailed prairie dogs, swift fox, prairie rattlesnakes) using migration, home
range, distribution, and dispersal distances as metrics. We then describe the role that spatial
scale plays in wildlife management of the prairie landscape from the non-profit, state, and
federal perspective and how these entities are managing at the scales of each focal species.