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The Wildlife Habitat and Nutrition Laboratory

The Department of Natural Resource Science’s “Wildlife Habitat and Nutrition Lab”, has been in operation since 1978. Established by Dr. Jack Nelson (faculty director), and is operated under the supervision of Bruce Davitt (Research Technologist Supervisor). The lab maintains a self – sustaining budget and pays for all other wages, salaries, benefits, equipment, maintenance, supplies (goods and services), computer and travel expenses.

The Unit

  • Principally performs laboratory services on a contract basis for state, federal, and private natural resource agencies throughout the country.
  • Assists in some of the department faculty’s research efforts and conducts its own nutrition research.
  • Provides training and part-time employment for students while they pursue their degree.
  • Conducts tours of the lab and deer /elk research facilities for various visiting groups and classes.
  • Cooperates with other departments in allowing use of lab equipment otherwise unavailable to these researchers and their students.

The lab determines the food habits of both domestic livestock and wildlife and performs chemical analyses on plants eaten by those animals (protein, fat, fiber, ash, calories, digestibility). Controlled feeding trials have been conducted using sheep, cattle and mule deer to determine how well these animals digest and utilize diets of different composition and nutritional quality. The intent is to develop methods for predicting the nutritional well-being of free-ranging animals.

Research and Contract Work

On-campus research and off-campus contract work has involved the following:


Domestic Livestock

Cattle, Sheep, Goats, Feral Horses, Pigs




Upland Birds

Turkey, Ptarmigan, Snow Geese, Spruce Grouse, Sharptail Grouse, Ruffed Grouse, Mountain Quail



imagesSmall Mammals

  • Muskrat, Chipmunk (yellow pine), Deer Mouse, Nutria, River Otter, Beaver, Mountain Beaver, Lemming, Red-backed and Tundra Voles, Arctic Hare, Pocket Gophers



Ringtail Possums, Greater Gliders, Bandicoot, Bettongs




Elk, Deer, Reindeer, Moose, Caribou, Muskoxen, Bison, Pronghorn, Mountain Goats, Bighorn Sheep



Black Bear, Grizzly Bear, Coyote, Mountain Lion




  • Grasshoppers, Army Cutworm Moths, Hornets, Anchovy, Smelt Herring, Rhinoceros, Silver Leaf Langur Monkey, Francois Langurs, Victoria Crowned Pigeon, a 16,000 yr. old Wooly Mammoth discovered frozen in the Alaskan tundra