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LANDER, Wyo. -- There's research on how mountain pine beetles impact grizzly bears by taking away a food source while killing whitebark pine trees.

There's information on how the beetles change the landscape, turning once-green forests to a rust color of death.

What Wyoming Game and Fish Department wildlife biologist Tony Mong is interested in is how the beetles are impacting hunters.

Last fall Mong started a long-term study looking at how beetle-killed forests in the Sierra Madres of Wyoming are changing the movements of elk and hunters.

Mong handed out about 10 GPS units -- less than he planned -- to hunters in order to collect data on their movements. Mong hopes to eventually deliver up to 100 units each fall.

The data will be collected and mapped to see how hunter movements change over the years, he said.

Mong also plans to put GPS collars on elk this winter in order to track the animals' movements.

Data from this study year will provide a baseline, Mong said. He wants to know if the movements by the animals and the hunters change and see if the changes correlate with forests killed by beetles.

While beetles kill trees quickly, it can take years before the dead trees fall, creating obstacles in the woods, which is why the study needs to run long-term to find any conclusive results, Mong said.

Anecdotally, Mong said hunters talked about noticing more logs on the ground and many said it could be an issue in the future.

Mong's research is unique in that few, if any, studies exist looking at the impact of beetles on hunters or looking at the impact on ungulates, said Tracey Johnson, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Wyoming.

Johnson invited Mong to share his research this spring at a UW beetle symposium. The symposium is still in the planning stages, Johnson said. The goal is to bring together researchers and land managers to exchange information about studies on and the impact of beetles.

 

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