Winter diets and habitat use of Alaska bison after wildfire
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Bruce H. Campbell; Michael Hinkes
Publication Year: 1983

Cataloging Information

  • bison
  • fire
  • habitat
  • sedge-grasslands
  • wildlife habitat
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: December 3, 2015
FRAMES Record Number: 3679


The North American bison (Bison bison) was common in Alaska until 200 to 300 years ago (Skinner and Kaisen 1947, McDonald 1978). Reasons for its extripation are not known although climate and habitat changes may have played a major role. The species was reintroduced to Alaska in 1928 with a transplant of 17 plains bison to Delta Junction from the National Bison Range, Montana. By the early 1950's this herd had grown sufficiently to allow sport hunting as well as provide bison for additional transplants. Transplants of 18 bison in 1965 and 20 in 1968 to Farewell Lake, Alaska formed a nucleus herd of 45 in 1968. By 1971 the population had increased to 70 and, as available winter range appeared to be severely limited, a permit hunt was held in 1972. The estimated carrying capacity of the range was 100 bison (Burris and McKnight 1973:18) and the herd has been managed for that number until now by controlled hunts. Winter is the most difficult season for bison (Fuller 1962:12). Harsh weather places strong energy demands on bison and determines winter distribution. During winter on the prairies and lower latitudes of North America, bison depend heavily on grasses (Peden 1976), while sedges are the major food in montane areas and northern latitudes (Meagher 1973, Reynolds et al. 1978). The winter diet of northern bison reflects their preference for sedge-dominated habitat (Soper 1941, Reynolds et al. 1978, Cairns and Telfer 1980). The distribution and life span of sedge-grasslands, which provide abundant and easily obtained food for bison (Van Camp 1975), often depends upon natural disturbance such as stream meandering, flooding, or wildfire. In 1977 the Bear Creek wildfire burned about 1,400 km2 near Farewell, Alaska including some bison winter range. This paper reports the distribution and diet of bison after the fire.

Online Link(s):
Campbell, Bruce H.; Hinkes, Michael. 1983. Winter diets and habitat use of Alaska bison after wildfire. Wildlife Society Bulletin 11(1):16-21.