Habitat alteration to benefit game species has been underway for centuries. These practices are globally widespread and can take diverse forms – e.g., tree reduction to enhance forage for deer in the United States and burning moorlands in Scotland to increase habitat for wading birds. Yet the consequences of these practices for non-targeted animals are poorly understood. Our research focused on the long- and short-term effects of mechanical habitat manipulation on non-targeted birds and mammal communities in a pinyon-juniper ecosystem in Northwestern Colorado. Using avian point count surveys, remotely triggered wildlife cameras, and a Bayesian hierarchical statistical approach we evaluated the differences in bird and mammal community composition, bird densities, and mammal habitat use in areas where trees were mechanically removed >40 years ago, woodlands more recently disturbed by mastication, woodlands naturally disturbed by wildfire, and intact reference woodlands. Our results demonstrate that mechanical tree reduction has unintended consequences for birds and mammals. Thus, we suggest that future management actions that result in large-scale tree removal should explicitly measure intended and unintended effects on birds, mammals, and other taxonomic groups.
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