Object & Deliverables
The project aimed to provide managers with a monitoring scheme to evaluate elk population numbers and habitat use to determine the success of elk transplants and forest management for elk in the area. Specific objectives included: 1) developing a sampling protocol for surveying wintering elk in the east central foothills and 2) evaluate winter habitat selection relative to forest management practices. The study area was in the central Rocky Mountain foothills of Alberta, Canada. Elk were released into the study area during the winter months of 2000-2004.
In combination with the Grizzly Bear team from the Foothills Model Forest, they undertook the most extensive test of GPS collars published to date. Two methods by which they could statistically correct for GPS bias to provide robust conclusions about animal habitat use were developed. Source populations of elk that were familiar with either hunters of wolves fared better than animals that were familiar with neither. Survival rates were more than doubled for animals familiar with at least one of these two primary risks. Maps were created that identified area where mortality risk due to hunters were low to target optimal release locations. Wolf predation is most pronounced during the first winter immediately following release whereas hunting occurred later in the summer and fall. By the second year, survival rates of translocated elk matched those of the resident populations. Cutblocks create a different landscape pattern than natural meadow complexes. Elk readily use smaller cutblocks but restrict their movements to the edges of larger cutblocks. They also appear to spend little time near cutlines.
The final reporting for this project comprised a number of publications including: “Population Monitoring, translocation, and the cumulative effects of industrial activities on elk in the central east foothills of Alberta, Canada, March 2005 submitted by Evelyn Merrill et al in March 2005, “Scales of movement by elk in response to heterogeneity in forage resources and predation risks” in Landscape Ecology (2005) 20:237-287 by Jacqueline Frair et al., “Know Thy Enemy: Experience Affects Elk Translocation Success in Risky Landscapes” in The Journal of Wildlife Management 71(2) by Jacqueline Frair et. al in 2007, “Wandering Wapitis and Wolves”, October 2004 and December 2005.