Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area

Contact Information:

Cassity Bromley
Bighorn Canyon NRA

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Website

Research Needs

Natural Resources Research Needs

  • Mountain Lion Predation Habits in the Pryor Mountains. The Pryor Mountains are home to a unique herd of wild horses, descended from Spanish stock. Last year mountain lions killed substantial numbers of foals and yearlings, resulting in a lack of recruitment to the herd. The Pryors also have a herd of bighorn sheep descended from animals transplanted into the area in the 1970s. A study of radio collared sheep has indicated that lion predation is a major cause of death for bighorn sheep. Bighorn Canyon NRA would like to initiate a study of mountain lions, using GPS collars with remote download. Locations from GPS collars would allow us to locate lion kills and get a more accurate picture of what and where mountain lions are killing.  Bighorn Canyon would like to begin this work as soon as possible, and can provide housing and some funding for equipment for a potential masters student.
  • Study of changing climate on mountain mahogany Mountain mahogany is a key foraging resource for bighorn sheep and other browsers in the park. The distribution of this important species appears to be changing due to possible first-order effects of changing temperature/moisture regimes, or associated vulnerability to disease.  The park needs a study to determine the historic ecology of mountain mahogany, quantify vulnerabilities to the species and its co-dependents, and recommend actions for protection.
  • Effect of thinning juniper on birds and/or small mammals. The park plans to thin juniper to increase horizontal visibility for bighorn sheep. Thinning will occur by mechanical means (skid steer and tree grinder), and using fire. We plan to remove about 80% of the juniper trees in the targeted areas. Areas for thinning are selected using bighorn sheep habitat use and suitability maps, and the desired result is sheep using larger areas of the park. However, the effects of thinning on other species are unknown. Results of this study would be used to modify thinning plans and patterns to benefit multiple species. Housing and some funding may be available from Bighorn Canyon.
  • Efficacy of old pasture rehabilitation plans.  Bighorn Canyon has well over 100 acres of old horse and cattle pasture which is infested with weeds. The park wants to reclaim pasture land and is beginning to test techniques. We would like to know what combination of weed control and seeding results in the most desirable condition: few weeds, abundant forage, appearance consistent with historic pasture in cultural landscape, and reasonable cost. Housing and some funding may be available from Bighorn Canyon.
  • Best methods of habitat improvement for bighorn sheep. Bighorn sheep rely on their eyesight to avoid predators. Junipers have been expanding in the park, creating dense stands with low horizontal visibility. The park is interested in thinning juniper to improve bighorn habitat. A variety of methods, including mechanical thinning and burning, could be used to increase visibility and forage. Experimental plots could be used to determine which methods are most effective in various areas and habitat types. Housing and some funding may be available from Bighorn Canyon.
  • Distribution of Limber Pine and extent of blister rust infection. Limber Pine occurs at higher elevations in the park. Some stands may be infected with the exotic blister rust, but the extent of the infection in the park is unknown. GPS mapping of existing stands in the park, and their health, would allow us to track the status of Limber Pine in the park. Housing and some funding may be available from Bighorn Canyon.
  • Distribution of bats and vulnerability to Whitenose disease. Bighorn Canyon is home to at least 11 species of bat, and includes caves and other roost sites. Bighorn Canyon could use assistance in identifying critical roosts and foraging sites and providing for their protection. Also need an assessment of the only cave in Bighorn Canyon to assess its potential for whitenose disease transmission.  Housing and some funding may be available from Bighorn Canyon.
  • Effects of changing precipitation regimes on park geomorphology.  Erosion and sedimentary movement appear to be accelerating in areas of the park.  This can affect natural and cultural resources as well as the distribution of surface water.  An assessment of historic geomorphology, quantification of changes, investigations for causes, and recommendations for mitigation is needed.
  • Effects of climate change on surface water flows and turbidity Layout Creek in particular would be a good drainage to study for determining effects of changing erosion timing and quantity on the park's surface waters.
  • Invasive vegetation inventory and monitoring How many invasive species are in the park, and how is the change in phenology associated with climate change affecting colonization, rate of spread, and distribution?

Cultural Resources Research Needs

  • Archaeological inventory and monitoring for key areas of the park
  • Determinations of eligibility to the National Register for recently located archaeological sites
  • Oral history and ethnography for key areas/periods, both tribal (including Crow and Northern Cheyenne) and non-tribal communities (ranching; early park history; tribal perspectives on the 'assembling history' oral history project for construction of the Yellowtail Dam by the Bureau of Reclamation)
  • Traditional Cultural Properties study for the park, including mapping
  • Geomorphic analysis of effects of changing precipitation regimes, erosion, and vegetation on stability of archaeological and historic sites and features