Study

Prescribed fire and cattle grazing on an elk winter range in Montana

  • Published source details Jourdonnais C.S. & Bedunah D.J. (1990) Prescribed fire and cattle grazing on an elk winter range in Montana. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 18, 232-240.

Actions

This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Manage vegetation using livestock grazing

Action Link
Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

Use prescribed burning

Action Link
Terrestrial Mammal Conservation
  1. Manage vegetation using livestock grazing

    A replicated, controlled study in 1983–1987 of a rough fescue Festuca scabrella-dominated grassland in Montana, USA (Jourdonnais & Bedunah 1990) found that cattle grazing increased the proportion of rough fescue biomass utilized by elk Cervus canadensis nelsoni in the first, but not second winter after grazing. Over the first winter, a higher proportion of rough fescue was utilized by elk in cattle-grazed plots (58%) than in non-cattle-grazed plots (24%). There was no difference between plots the following winter (cattle grazed: 78%; ungrazed: 69%). Additionally, the proportion of rough fescue plants grazed by elk over the four years from outset of the experiment did not differ between plots grazed (26–98%) or ungrazed (15–97%) by cattle. Cattle-grazing entailed 104 cow/calf pairs on a 104-ha pasture, from 18 October 1983 to 22 December 1983. There were three ungrazed control plots, 2 ha each in extent. Six caged and six non-caged samples on each treatment were clipped in April 1985 and 1986 to determine elk utilization by biomass. Additionally, utilization of rough fescue was assessed by determining the proportion of plants grazed by elk by inspecting the closest plant to 50 points along each of two transects per plot.

    (Summarised by: Nick Littlewood)

  2. Use prescribed burning

    A replicated, randomized, controlled study in 1983–1987 of a rough fescue Festuca scabrella-dominated grassland in Montana, USA (Jourdonnais & Bedunah 1990) found that burning increased grazing of rough fescue by elk Cervus canadensis nelsoni in the first, but not subsequent, winters following burning. The proportion of rough fescue plants grazed was greater in burned plots (39%) than in unburned plots (15%) over the winter following autumn burning. Over the subsequent three winters, the proportion grazed did not differ between burned plots (including spring burns; 98–100%) and unburned plots (87–97%). Additionally, a higher proportion of rough fescue biomass was utilized over the first two winters following burning (82–86%) than was utilized in unburned plots (24–69%). Six plots were burned on 17 October 1983 and six on 15 April 1984. Three plots were not burned. Plots were 2 ha in extent. Treatments were assigned randomly. Elk utilization of rough fescue was assessed by inspecting the closest plant to 50 points along each of two transects/plot and determining the proportion that was grazed. Additionally, six caged and six non-caged samples on each treatment were clipped, in April 1985 and 1986, to determine elk utilization by biomass.

    (Summarised by: Nick Littlewood)

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