Yesterday the Salt Lake Tribune published an article titled “Jackrabbits are a bigger problem for cattle than bison in Utah’s Henry Mountains, USU study says” those results may have come as a surprise for some people but they didn’t surprise me. It is great though to see the results and to see the figures from the bison ecology and bison-cattle interactions that researcher Dustin Ranglack spent two years conducting in the Henry Mountains of Utah.
Eighteen genetically pure American Bison were released in the Henry Mountains in 1941 and the herd has grown to about 325 head during that time which isn’t all that large when I think of the 500+ bison that call Antelope Island State Park, a very small area compared to the Henry Mountains. The bison on Antelope Island don’t compete with cattle for food but in the Henry Mountains they do and that has caused a stir because ranchers see the bison as a big problem.
The study in the Henry Mountains determined cattle consumed 52.3 percent of the grass biomass removed by herbivores in the study area. Lagomorphs — hares, rabbits and pikas — took out another 34.1 percent.
Bison accounted for 13.7 percent of the grass consumption.
So it seems that bison aren’t the problem for ranchers and their cattle, lagomorphs are.
Coyotes in the state of Utah have a $50.00 bounty on their heads which is a foolish, non-scientific program that is supposed to save the mule deer population (I wish you could see me roll my eyes) by exterminating the coyotes in the state.
Sure, coyotes might take weak or very young mule deer but their primary prey is smaller mammals like rabbits and voles. Voles and rabbit populations are cyclic and populations explode and collapse but coyotes have historically kept those population in natural balance. Not now though because coyotes have that bounty on their heads. So is it any surprise that rabbit, hare and vole populations explode and that in the Henry Mountains their numbers are so large that they consume 34% of the grass biomass? I wonder what studies in other areas where cattle range would show?
I have written about voles, coyotes, other natural predators and nature’s balance before so reading that there is a rabbit problem isn’t news to me because in the state of Utah “predator control” isn’t based on science at all. It is more about killing for killing’s sake and to hell with the consequences.
So the problem with ranching in the Henry Mountains isn’t the bison but rabbits and hares whose populations could be reduced substantially…
By not killing the Coyotes. By using science to create a natural balance and the resulting trophic cascades that would increase biodiversity. By using our heads instead of relying on methods that have NOT worked in over 100 years.
This isn’t just just a Henry Mountain Range issue, it is a Utah issue. It is an issue where ever there are Coyotes, cattle, rabbits, hares and voles.
I need to thank Dustin Ranglack for bringing this information to light.
See how Wolves Change Rivers in this video. Granted the producer called elk deer and they show a European Badger instead of an American Badger but this video is powerful.
Read more on the study here: Bison vs. rabbits: the need for science-based management decisions in livestock–wildlife conflicts