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1 March 2005 Diet Composition, Forage Selection, and Potential for Forage Competition Among Elk, Deer, and Livestock on Aspen–Sagebrush Summer Range
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Abstract

We evaluated elk (Cervus elaphus), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), cattle (Bos taurus), and domestic sheep (Ovis aries) diet composition, diet overlap, and forage selection on aspen (Populus tremuloides Michaux)–sagebrush (Artemisia spp. L.) summer range in northeastern Nevada to understand potential for forage competition to provide better information for managing these communities. Diets were determined through microhistological fecal analysis from 1998 to 2000, and forage selection was evaluated at feeding sites in aspen and sagebrush communities in 1999 and 2000. Elk spring diets were the most diverse in composition; summer elk diets were dominated by forbs (59%–78%); deer consumed mostly woody browse (64%–72%); and cattle and sheep ate mostly graminoids. Lupines (Lupinus spp. L.) constituted ≥ 11% of elk, deer, and sheep diets in summer. Spurred lupine (Lupinus caudatus Kellogg) was the lupine typically selected in feeding sites and greatest consumption occurred in summer when total alkaloid levels were lowest. Highest diet overlap was between cattle and sheep in 1999 (68%) and lowest between deer and cattle in 2000 (3%). Summer elk and deer diets overlapped moderately (45%–59%). Diets did not differ between elk in spring with sheep, elk in summer with deer and sheep, or cattle with sheep. Cattle foraged selectively on forbs in aspen communities (68%) and on graminoids in sagebrush communities (88%), reflecting relative forage availabilities. We detected no differences among elk, cattle, and sheep for forage selection in aspen communities. Electivity indices indicated elk preferred forbs in aspen and sagebrush communities; cattle preferred graminoids in sagebrush; and foraging sheep preferred forbs in aspen. Our results suggest potential for forage competition among ungulates on aspen–sagebrush summer range is highest for forbs in aspen communities. Monitoring productivity and use of key forage species, particularly forbs in aspen communities, should complement management objectives on shared aspen–sagebrush summer range.

Jeffrey L. Beck and James M. Peek "Diet Composition, Forage Selection, and Potential for Forage Competition Among Elk, Deer, and Livestock on Aspen–Sagebrush Summer Range," Rangeland Ecology and Management 58(2), 135-147, (1 March 2005). https://doi.org/10.2111/03-13.1
Received: 24 February 2003; Accepted: 1 November 2004; Published: 1 March 2005
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