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Monday, January 25 • 1:40pm - 2:00pm
Habitat Selection of Reintroduced Bison in Northern Illinois

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AUTHORS: Julia C. Brockman*, Southern Illinois University; Clayton K. Nielsen, Southern Illinois University; Jeffery W. Walk, The Nature Conservancy

ABSTRACT: American bison Bison bison have historically played an integral role in shaping prairie ecosystems. In one of the first reintroductions of a semi-wild population of bison east of the Mississippi River, The Nature Conservancy reintroduced bison to the Nachusa Grasslands in northern Illinois in November 2014. Given the novelty of such efforts, questions remain regarding how human disturbances and prairie management affect bison habitat selection. Our study will address these literature gaps while investigating seasonal and annual changes in habitat selection. During the first year of study (October 2014-September 2015), we collected hourly location data from Lotek Iridium TrackM 3D and 4D collars placed on 7 bison prior to reintroduction. We overlayed these data on a map of land cover types within the bison enclosure. Using a Chi-square test with a 95% confidence interval, we compared observed bison use of cover types to expected use. Our initial findings indicate significant preferential selection for remnant prairie and unrestored grassland relative to restored prairie and oak savanna. Future analysis will include the development of a resource selection function to more thoroughly investigate other environmental and management-related variables that may influence habitat selection, including burn regime, planting restoration date, slope, aspect, and distance from anthropogenic structures. With a better understanding of how bison grazing is influenced by restoration management and human disturbance, wildlife managers can make better-informed decisions regarding bison restoration and public use.

Monday January 25, 2016 1:40pm - 2:00pm EST
Vandenberg A