New study shows bison dont favor groomed roads in Yellowstone National Park

BOZEMAN, MONT.--Bison routinely travel along the groomed roads in Yellowstone National Park because its a heck of a lot easier than plowing through piles of snow, right? Not at all, according to a study by a former Montana State University graduate student who spent two winters documenting the shaggy beasts precise movements in the parks western section. Most of the travel is not taking place on groomed roads, said Dan Bjornlie, who finished his masters degree in ecology at MSU last spring. He currently works for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

The project was instigated by the mass exodus and shooting of bison during the 1996-97 winter, said Bob Garrott, an MSU ecology professor and project advisor. Some suspected the bison were exploiting the groomed roads to leave the park, a hypothesis repeated so frequently by the media as to appear as fact, he said.

Dans the first person to directly address that question with field studies, and his intensive work does not support this hypothesis, Garrott said.

The study, funded by the Biological Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey, has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Wildlife Management.

"There are people who believe that the groomed trails are making those animals change their patterns, but with the research that's being done...we just aren't seeing that," Yellowstone National Park spokeswoman Marsha Karle told the Billings Gazette.

Bjornlie monitored bison in the Madison, Firehole and Gibbon river drainages from November 1997 to May 1998 and from December 1998 to May 1999. In all, he and his team logged 28,293 bison observations. Only 8 percent of the time were bison travelling. Up to 20 percent of that travel time was on roads, but more often the animals followed natural corridors, streambanks and packed trails, Bjornlie found.

The data show that of all activities, a really small part is travelling, and of that, a small part is t

Contact: Annette Trinity-Stevens
Montana State University

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