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Distribution of suitable habitat in winter and summer for plains bison (Bison bison bison) in the Pink Mountain Region of British Columbia Hoar, Bruce


The plains bison (Bison bison bison) is threatened in Canada, with the biggest threat to their recovery being a lack of habitat in which they are considered compatible. Although the Pink Mountain, British Columbia, bison herd currently has about 1,000 individuals, there has never been a formal study of the suitability of the area to sustain the herd. Therefore, this study was performed to determine if the Pink Mountain region contains plains bison suitable habitat based on guiding principles for developing a Habitat Suitability Index. Data used for analysis was aggregated from Landsat8, Canadian Digital Elevation Model, Daymet, and the Freshwater Data Atlas of British Columbia. The final habitat suitability index combined a value for slope, distance to water, landcover, aspect, and snow depth. Separate calculations were performed for summer and winter. Based on the habitat suitability model conducted, there appears to be significant habitat of sufficient quality to support a population of plains bison year-round in the Halfway River drainage. Areas with acceptable habitat were predominately in the river bottoms or valleys and the far eastern section of the study area. In the summer, approximately 60% of the area was categorized as a habitat suitability index of at least six. In winters with maximum snow coverage, only 17% was similarly categorized. Despite this, it is my impression that the area acceptable as habitat is sufficient for a considerable population of bison. Extending the area under study and creating estimates of forage production could lead to a more detailed assessment of carrying capacity for bison in the region, leading to improved management of this iconic species.

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