Rooted in Research

August 2021 Rooted in Research Webinar

Primeval Paths: Bison in West Virginia

Wednesday, August 4, 2021 12:30 – 1:30 PM EDT

Melissa Thomas-Van Gundy, Research Forester

Although considered an animal of the western United States plains, bison were also present in the eastern United States from Pennsylvania southwards to Georgia and Mississippi. The last known bison in West Virginia were killed in Randolph County near the town of Valley Head in 1825. In 1989, an employee of the US Fish and Wildlife Service used old traveler’s accounts and other records to document bison trails in West Virginia. This work was undertaken because of the re-discovery of a rare plant considered extirpated from West Virginia, the running buffalo clover, thought to be associated with bison trails. The effort resulted in a map of approximately 2,600 km of bison and elk trails. A recent publication documents the creation of the original map and the process of updating the trails to digital format. In the publication we also investigated possible research applications of the map including exploratory analysis of the distance from a bison trail to current locations of rare plants in West Virginia and the concentration of pyrophilic tree species along bison trails. Join us for a discussion on why major bison trails are an important resource for telling a more complete story of the history of forests and woodlands of West Virginia.

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