Research by moonlight: Study shows bison alter ‘landscape of fear’ for rodents in grasslands

by Jami Kunzer, Northern Illinois University
January 25, 2023

When it comes to when and where rodents eat, no decision is subtle.

The consequences of those decisions can ripple across food webs. That’s what makes a recently published study so important.

The study looked at how bison reintroduction at Nachusa Grasslands — a 3,800-acre nature preserve in Franklin Grove, Illinois — has impacted the way small mammals respond to moonlight.

“What happens when bison are reintroduced is they alter the ‘landscape of fear’ for small mammals,” said Professor Holly Jones, a co-author of the study carried out by her Evidence-based Restoration Lab. Jones holds a joint appointment at NIU in biological sciences and environmental studies.

What is the ‘landscape of fear’? Put simply, it means some geographic areas are scarier than others for small mammals.

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