Mule deer and elk foraging preference for 4 sage-brush taxa.

Wambolt, C.L.
Rangeland Ecology & Management / Journal of Range Management Archives
Publication Year: 
A 10 year study under natural winter conditions at 2 sites tested the hypothesis that mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus hemionus) and elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) forage equally on 4 sagebrush (Artemisia L.) taxa. Each year approximately 2,500 available leaders on 244 plants on the Northern Yellowstone Winter Range were examined for browsing. Browsing levels increased with winter severity, reaching 91% of leaders browsed for mountain big sagebrush (A. tridentata ssp. vaseyana [Rydb.] Beetle), the preferred taxon (p< 0.05) that averaged 56.1% at the 2 sites. Wyoming big sagebrush (A.t. ssp. wyomingensis Beetle and Young) was narrowly preferred (38.6%) over basin big sagebrush (A.t. Nutt. ssp. tridentata) (30.3%). Black sagebrush (A. nova Nels.) was least preferred (17.0%). Differences in preference among taxa were smallest during the severest winters when more elk were present thereby increasing total sagebrush utilization. Mule deer diets averaged 52% sagebrush over the study. Many sagebrush plants were damaged and even killed by heavy browsing during the study. Promoting sagebrush productivity should be a management objective on similar winter game ranges.
Document Type: 
Journal Issue/Article
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Rangeland Ecology & Management (formerly the Journal of Range Management) serves as a forum for the presentation and discussion of facts, ideas, and philosophies pertaining to the study, management, ecology, and use of rangelands and their resources. The journal is peer-reviewed and provides international exchange of scholarly research and information among persons interested in rangelands. The Global Rangelands collection includes REM content up to 5 years from the current year. More recent content is available by subscription from BioOne and the Society for Range Management, and may be available at your local university library.
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