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Wind Cave National Park

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The range use patterns and food habits of Bison bison at Wind Cave National Park (WCNP) were observed during the winter, spring and summer of 1979. WCNP, a fenced area of 11,355 ha, is located in the southeastern portion of the Black Hills of South Dakota. Approximately 80 percent of the Park is in rolling mixed-grass prairie, and the remainder is rocky hills covered by Pinus onderosa. Other major herbivores inhabiting the Park include elk (Cervus elaphus), pronghorn (Antilocapra americana), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), and black-tailed prairie dog (Cymomys ludovicianus). Information pertaining to the bison herd's use of range resources is necessary to make proper management decisions concerning the bison within the Park. In addition, because WCNP is a remnant representation of the mixed-grass floral and faunal complex, and because the bison are able to roam freely within the boundaries, this study was also an opportunity to describe the ways in which bison utilize some of the resources with which they evolved. Specific objectives of the study were to determine (1) seasonal food habits, key forage species, and differences in food habits between age and sex classes, and (2) interactions with other major ungulates using the range.