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    Winter Feeding and Bison Migration Impact Parasite Infection Levels

    Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

    Researchers have delved into the impact of winter feeding and migrations on bison parasite infection levels, revealing intriguing findings. In the heart of the Białowieża Forest, bison provided with winter supplements on small patches displayed over twice the number of parasitic nematodes, specifically Ashworthius sidemi, compared to their non-supplemented counterparts.

    Bison Numbers and Challenges

    As Europe’s largest terrestrial mammal, bison numbers are gradually increasing, with over 8,000 in the wild. However, these majestic creatures face various threats, including diseases and parasites. The study, led by scientists from the Polish Academy of Sciences, focused on understanding the dynamics of A. sidemi infection in relation to winter feeding and bison migrations.

    Parasite Impact on Bison Health

    A. sidemi, known for its blood-feeding habits, can lead to histopathological changes and weaken bison, potentially causing anemia. The parasite’s life cycle involves eggs being excreted in feces, contaminating the environment and posing a risk during winter feeding.

    Winter Feeding Alters Infection Dynamics

    Research revealed that non-fed bison in Białowieża and Knyszyn Forests utilized larger winter areas, resulting in lower infection levels (770 and 1,400 nematodes per bison, respectively) compared to fed counterparts. In the central Białowieża, where winter feeding areas were smaller, bison had over twice the parasite count (average of 3,020).

    Practical Implications and Management

    The study’s practical significance lies in adaptive management for mitigating parasitic invasion effects. Notably, winter feeding, a common practice, negatively affects space usage, migration patterns, and parasite spread. The findings underline the importance of mindful population management for the well-being of these iconic creatures.

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