Advisor: Dr. Clay Nielsen
Habitat Selection of Reintroduced Bison in Northern Illinois
American bison (Bison bison) have historically played an integral role in shaping prairie ecosystems. In one of the first reintroductions of a semi-wild population of bison east of the Mississippi River, The Nature Conservancy reintroduced bison to the Nachusa Grasslands in northern Illinois in November 2014. Given the novelty of such efforts, questions remain regarding how human disturbances and prairie management affect bison habitat selection. Furthermore, although several studies have investigated bison avoidance due to human disturbance, a majority of these have employed observational surveys only and thus failed to account for behavioral responses elicited before bison were within view. My study will address these literature gaps while investigating seasonal and annual changes in habitat selection and responses to anthropogenic disturbances. I will collect hourly location data from Lotek Iridium TrackM 3D and 4D collars placed on 7 bison prior to reintroduction during October 2014. I will analyze bison selection of sites with varying burn regimes, planting ages, plant communities, and levels of anthropogenic disturbance. As an additional indicator of bison habitat use and response to human disturbance, I will collect observational data on bison behavior. Pairing observational data with hourly location data will provide a more complete understanding of bison ecology. With a better understanding of how bison grazing is influenced by restoration management and human disturbance, wildlife managers can make better-informed decisions regarding bison restoration and public use.