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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Sunday, February 1, 2015

A Utah State study has determined that black-tailed jackrabbits and desert cottontails, not bison, are the main forage competitors for cattle in the Henry Mountains study area in Garfield County..............Seems like the rabbits consume twice as much forage as the bison with cattle consuming 52.3 percent of the grass biomass.................Lagomorphs — hares, rabbits and pikas — took out another 34.1 percent.................Bison accounted for only 13.7 percent of the grass consumption..................Wild and genetically pure Bison from yellowstone were rewiled to the Henry Mountains in 1941............Of course, Ranchers wanted no part of the Bison and now this study is demonstrating that the "devil" is not the Bison...................And would you believe it but the Ranchers in this region now want Coyotes around and not poisoned and shotgunned due to the Coyotes huge consumption of rabbits and rodents...........Yet, Coyote killing will continue to the delight of hunters who want as many deer around as possible.................We are out of control on wildlife mgmt, bending to special interests in every domain except IN THE INTEREST OF NATURE ITSELF, AND ITS CALLING FOR "HANDS OFF", IT HAS WORKED FOR MILLENIA WITHOUT SPECIAL INTEREST MEDDLING!

Utah study: Jackrabbits bigger problem for cattle than bison

January 31, 2015 1:00 pm  •  
Turns out rabbits may be bigger food competitors for southern Utah cattle than bison.
Utah State University researcher Dustin Ranglack collected jackrabbit and cottontail scat for two years in a study of the dynamics between the wild bison and cattle sharing the range on Utah’s remote Henry Mountains.

His research may lead to changes in long-held perceptions about competition between the herds.
In a study published in the “Journal of Applied Ecology,” Ranglack showed that black-tailed jackrabbits and desert cottontails, not bison, are the main forage competitors for cattle in the Henry Mountains study area in Garfield County.
The discovery came as a bit of a surprise to Ranglack, a researcher with Utah State University’s Department of Wildland Resources and Ecology Center, state wildlife biologists and ranchers who have run cattle on the Henrys for generations.
“Bison are the most obvious presence on the landscape, other than cattle. They are big animals and they leave big dungs pats,” Ranglack said.
“But when you walk around, it becomes pretty obvious there is a fairly substantial jackrabbit population. You see a lot of pellets,” he said. “It turns out rabbits were consuming twice as much forage as the bison.”

Ranglack, along with his USU faculty mentor Johan du Toit and statistician Susan Durham, determined cattle consumed 52.3 percent of the grass biomass removed by herbivores in the study area.Lagomorphs — hares, rabbits and pikas — took out another 34.1 percent.Bison accounted for only 13.7 percent of the grass consumption.
Eighteen bison arrived on the Henry Mountains in 1941 after being transplanted from Yellowstone National Park and released in the Robber’s Roost area of the San Rafael Desert. The animals moved to the Henrys and remain one of the few free-roaming bison herds in the country.
Ranchers with cattle on the Henry Mountains have had concerns about bison and aired them publicly with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources over the years. Most rancher complaints have centered on the number of bison on the range and the wildlife agency’s ability to accurately count the animals.
Ranglack and his crew built 40 exclosures in the study area. Half of the structures kept bison and cattle from grazing on vegetation in the exclosure area. The other half also kept rabbits away from the grasses.
The team had predicted bison and cattle would be the top consumers of grass on the public rangeland in the Steele Butte North grazing allotment, about 20 miles south of Hanksville.
Ranchers worried bison were using lands designated as winter range for cattle and reducing the forage.
The results took all the parties to a place few, if any, expected the discussion to lead: predators.
Surveys handed out by the researchers and returned from 12 of the of the 21 cattle producers in the study area (representing 3,556 of 5,019 grazing permits) prior to the project showed the ranchers believed bison were a high-level competitor to cattle. Rabbits were considered a low-level competitor.
At the same time, ranchers believed the Henry Mountains coyote population should be controlled.
“I was concerned when I first presented this to the ranchers because it was a little contrary to what had been said in the past,” Ranglack said. “They really felt like bison were a problem and I was about to say otherwise.”
During his presentation Ranglack got to the part showing rabbits were the second top forage consumer and he didn’t even need to mention coyote control.
“I heard them saying they needed to stop shooting coyotes,” Ranglack said. “They jumped right to that conclusion on their own. I didn’t have to say a word about it.”
The study concludes: “The reduction or elimination of predator removal programs may result in an increase in forage availability for wildlife and livestock.”
Paul Pace, a fourth generation rancher in the Henry Mountains, was at the meeting when the results were shared.
“We are not arrogant enough to think we know it all,” Pace said. “The more we can do this type of legitimate research and not the chasing-the-dollar type of research, the better.
"There are a lot of dynamics on desert allotments,” he added. “Now we have observed this, the next question is: How does it play into management?”
Pace doesn’t expect major changes in coyote control in the Henrys.
“Predator control is being done to protect the trophy deer herd,” he said. “I don’t see anybody worrying about controlling rabbits to help bison or cattle.”
Bill Bates, wildlife section chief with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said the bison on the Henry Mountains are doing well. Some have been relocated to the Book Cliffs of eastern Utah.
The post hunting season population objective for bison on the Henry Mountains is 325 animals. The state averages about 70 hunting permits annually and roughly 1,000 hunters apply through a lottery for each available permit.
Ranchers, biologists and researchers were all equally surprised by the results of the study, but also equally impressed with the collaboration involved.
“Everybody was involved from Day 1 on this project,” Bates said. “We have better communication and a better partnership with the livestock operators in that area as a result of the process. This has increased our ability to manage effectively.”
The rabbits’ variable lifecycle complicates the management question after Ranglack’s research. State and federal biologists estimate rabbit populations were below peak numbers during the study. That means the small mammals can have an even larger impact on the available forage base in the future. On the other hand, the impact could go down when the cycle is on the low side.
The exclosures are still on the mountain and could be used for additional research. Ranglack said the next step might be studying the impact of a controlled coyote population on rabbits.
“With appropriate ecological monitoring and adaptive adjustments, we believe livestock and wildlife can co-exist and perhaps even benefit each other,” Ranglack says. “For bison to be restored at ecologically meaningful scales in North America, they’ll likely have to share rangelands with cattle. We think this balance can be achieved.”

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