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Spatial population structure of Yellowstone bison

January 1, 2007

Increases in Yellowstone National Park, USA, bison (Bison bison) numbers and shifts in seasonal distribution have resulted in more frequent movements of bison beyond park boundaries and development of an interagency management plan for the Yellowstone bison population. Implementation of the plan under the adaptive management paradigm requires an understanding of the spatial and temporal structure of the population. We used polythetic agglomerative hierarchical cluster analysis of radiolocations obtained from free-ranging bison to investigate seasonal movements and aggregations. We classified radiolocations into 4 periods: annual, peak rut (15 Jul–15 Sep), extended rut (1 Jun–31 Oct), and winter (1 Nov–31 May). We documented spatial separation of Yellowstone bison into 2 segments, the northern and central herds, during all periods. The estimated year-round exchange rate (4.85–5.83%) of instrumented bison varied with the fusion strategy employed. We did not observe exchange between the 2 segments during the peak rut and it varied during the extended rut (2.15–3.23%). We estimated a winter exchange of 4.85–7.77%. The outcome and effectiveness of management actions directed at Yellowstone bison may be affected by spatial segregation and herd affinity within the population. Reductions based on total population size, but not applied to the entire population, may adversely affect one herd while having little effect on the other. Similarly, management actions targeting a segment of the population may benefit from the spatial segregation exhibited.

Publication Year 2007
Title Spatial population structure of Yellowstone bison
DOI 10.2193/2005-735
Authors Edward M. Olexa, Peter J. Gogan
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Wildlife Management
Index ID 70000587
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center