We compared browsing on twigs of small and large antelope bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata) shrubs among ten sites in the south Okanagan valley, British Columbia. We tested whether there were any age preferences by browsers and determined whether these preferences changed between seasons and mode of browsing. Two different types of browsing were observed: leaf stripping which occurred in the summer and twig clipping which occurred predominantly in the winter. We calculated age and size relationships showing that shoot volume and especially stem diameter were good predictors of shrub age. Among the ten sites, clipping removed 0.02 to 15.7% of a shrub's total twig length and stripping removed leaves from 0 to 5.2% of total twig length. Observations suggested that California bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis california) stripped antelope bitterbrush leaves in late summer, mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus hemionus) clipped twigs in the winter and cattle clipped twigs in the summer. Browsers preferred to clip twigs on smaller and hence younger antelope bitterbrush shrubs. In contrast, larger and older shrubs were preferred for leaf stripping. Since twig clipping was more prevalent than leaf stripping in antelope bitterbrush, overall preference for younger shrubs may lead to difficulties in seedling establishment in regions where it is heavily used as winter forage.
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Vol. 144 • No. 1