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The Weekly News Source for Wyoming's Ranchers, Farmers and AgriBusiness Community

Should have asked a rancher

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

By Dennis Sun

Don Day, the weatherman out of Cheyenne, has been telling us weather extremes always balance out. Last weekend, there were numerous temperature readings of 100 degrees and over. 

I thought to myself, “What is it going to take to balance this out?” Well, we found out, didn’t we? 

As I write this column early in the week, with a yard full of broken branches, I realized Don Day was right again. Both events were extremes – hot and cold. Maybe we will see a normal fall with precipitation to balance out the ongoing drought.

I think both humans and animals can adapt to differing weather conditions. I recently found a study affirming this to be somewhat true. The study looked at how moose in Alaska and bison on Great Plains ranches are adapting to the warming of climate change. They found a warming climate may be a threat to these two species.

Most people realize climate change is real and has been since God made our world and rested on the seventh day. Like COVID-19, climate change has been made political and some people have been pointing fingers at each other for the reason behind the ever-changing climate. 

Dr. Jeff Martin and Dr. Dan Thompson completed this study to examine the effects of warming temperatures on big game. 

Martin’s research measured heat flux in bison while Thompson studied body temperature regulation in moose. They wanted to study these species to see how large game animals respond to our warming temperatures.

Thompson worked as a wildlife biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and used this study to complete research for his doctoral dissertation. Through this study he remotely assessed the thermal tolerance of moose on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska and how they regulate body temperature. I would guess, what Thompson found for moose could be true for other large game animals. 

He found intensity and duration of hot weather affected the grazing of moose and the capacity of the animals to use physiological and behavioral responses. I imagine one could say the same about moose if they were being chased around by wolves and bears. That is life changing, too.

Martin also used his study to complete his doctoral degree. He used a thermal camera taking heat flux measures of bison, working with bison managers throughout the Great Plains from Texas to Saskatchewan, Canada. 

Using measurements from images of hundreds of bison of multiple ages, he was able to track the growth of bison from 19 different herds over many growing seasons for his research. 

He used the thermal images to study foraging changes in response to climate and how climate affects bison directly. He found there was slower growth during periods of higher temperatures, as bison have to work harder to regulate their body temperatures, causing them more stress. 

Bison and moose have been around for a long time. They have learned how to adapt. Adaptation isn’t something new to ranchers. A lot of what the moose, bison and researchers learned, they could have gotten from some ranchers. We applaud their studies, though, as livestock producers can learn from academic studies as well.

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