Great Gray Owls (Strix nebulosa) in the Sierra Nevada Mountains feed primarily on rodents, especially voles and pocket gophers. Voles have been shown to be negatively affected by cattle grazing, but effects of grazing on gophers in the Sierra Nevada Mountains are unknown. We investigated the effects of grazing on pocket gophers (Thomomys monticola and T. bottae) in 21 grazed and 21 ungrazed montane meadow sites in the central Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. Pocket gopher densities were significantly higher in grazed meadows than ungrazed meadows. Vegetation cover and height, thatch depth, and the frequency of sedge occurrence were higher in ungrazed meadows and there were negative correlations between pocket gopher densities and these vegetation variables. We suggest that potential negative effects of grazing on Great Gray Owls could be minimized by managing meadow vegetation commensurate with the habitat needs of their prey.
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Vol. 92 • No. 1