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9 March 2023 Resource Selection and Herbaceous Biomass at Foraging Sites of Translocated Bighorn Sheep
Ty J. Werdel, Jonathan A. Jenks, John T. Kanta, Chadwick P. Lehman, Teresa J. Frink
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Abstract

Bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) historically inhabited the Black Hills region of South Dakota, but the species was extirpated from the area in the early 1900s. We translocated 26 bighorn sheep from Alberta, Canada to the northern Black Hills. We predicted that translocated bighorn sheep would exhibit similar resource use and selection as populations native to comparable habitats, specifically steep slopes with low overstory cover and high visibility. We used resource selection functions to estimate habitat selection by bighorn sheep and Robel pole and hand-clipped biomass to investigate the correlation between forage estimate methods. Bighorn sheep selected habitat types at varying levels, but were most strongly associated with barren and grassland landscapes while negatively associated with forest landscapes. Bighorn sheep had a positive association with slope and selected for fire-disturbed landscapes and elevation seasonally. Visual obstruction readings and herbaceous biomass at foraging sites (n= 78) were positively associated (r2 = 0.62). Herbaceous biomass ranged from 302.07 to 2,487.43 kg·ha–1. Foraging sites were typically located in areas with little overstory tree canopy cover (mean = 8.41%, standard error [SE] = 1.85), shorter distances to escape terrain (mean = 24.00 m, SE = 3.21), and low amounts of woody debris (mean = 0.25 kg·ha–1, SE = 0.07). The study area (Deadwood region of South Dakota) provided sufficient landscape attributes and herbaceous biomass to support the newly established bighorn sheep herd. Post-translocation assessments of resource use are crucial for evaluating conservation actions and potential success of future large mammal translocations.

© 2022 The Society for Range Management. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Ty J. Werdel, Jonathan A. Jenks, John T. Kanta, Chadwick P. Lehman, and Teresa J. Frink "Resource Selection and Herbaceous Biomass at Foraging Sites of Translocated Bighorn Sheep," Rangeland Ecology and Management 87(1), 141-149, (9 March 2023). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rama.2022.12.004
Received: 29 June 2022; Accepted: 20 December 2022; Published: 9 March 2023
KEYWORDS
Bighorn Sheep
Black Hills
herbaceous biomass
Ovis canadensis
resource selection
Robel pole
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