Date of Award:

2014

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Wildland Resources

Advisor/Chair:

Johan T. du Toit

Abstract

As bison are considered to be ecologically extinct, and negative interactions between bison and cattle are perceived to limit bison restoration and cattle production, I designed a series of studies to test for potential competition between bison (Bison bison) and cattle (Bos taurus) for forage on the Henry Mountains in southern Utah. These studies provide insight into key information gaps previously identified by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR), Bureau of Land Management, and the local grazing association. The results indicate that bison and cattle are not strong competitors for forage on the Henry Mountains. Jackrabbits (Lepus californicus) emerged as the strongest competitive threat to cattle, consuming more than twice the amount of forage consumed by bison. Further, bison habitat preferences did not match with cattle habitat needs as reported by a survey of the local ranching community. This suggests that negative impacts on cattle due to bison have been overstated. Still, any potential negative impacts of bison will be felt by a small group of local individuals. This prompted me to design a new management scheme, which has the potential to increase the number of bison on the Henry Mountains while also compensating local ranchers for reducing the number of cattle they graze in the area. This system should be mutually beneficial for the local ranching community and the UDWR, and easily implemented by taking advantage of the currently exiting conservation license program.

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