Niche relationships and diet overlaps were compared among elk (Cervus elaphus), bison (Bison bison), bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), and pronghorn antelope (Antilocapra americana) between 1967–1970 and 1986–1988, a period when total ungulate numbers nearly tripled on Yellowstone's northern range. Ungulate species ratios on Yellowstone's northern winter range during the latter period were 100 elk : 10 mule deer : 3 bison : 2 pronghorns : 1 bighorns. Elk numbers were positively correlated to bison, mule deer, and pronghorn numbers (r2 = 0.76, 0.97, and 0.48, respectively, P < 0.01). Few other changes in habitat use or habitat overlap occurred, and diets for only 2 of the 10 species pairs, elk-bighorn (Spearman's rank order coefficient (RHO) = 0.55, P < 0.05) and mule deer – pronghorn (RHO = 0.64, P < 0.05), were significantly associated with each other. Bison consumed more grass and fewer sedges, mule deer more fringed sage (Artemisia frigida) and more rabbit-brush (Chrysothamnus spp.), and bighorn sheep more grasses and fewer sedges, while pronghorns ate less saltsage (Atriplex nuttalli) but more big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) during 1986–1988 than during 1967–1970. Bison expanded their range and bison and bighorn sheep used a wider variety of habitats. We found little evidence of change in competitive interactions between ungulate species. A few diet and habitat overlaps increased, the opposite of the prediction from the competitive exclusion principle amongst species, suggesting that intraspecific competition was more important. Several explanations are proposed for the lack of changes in niche relationships during a period of near tripling in density of the ungulate guild.
|Title||Niche relationships within a guild of ungulate species in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, following release from artificial controls|
|Authors||Francis J. Singer, Jack E. Norland|
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Series Title||Canadian Journal of Zoology|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|