Ecology of Elk on Department of Interior Lands in Southwest Wyoming

Science Center Objects

Between 2005 and 2010, we radio- collared 61 female elk (Cervus elaphus) on Fossil Butte National Monument and 12 female elk near Cokeville, Wyoming, slightly northwest of the Monument, all from the West Green River herd. We are using the 209,250 locations from these elk to identify seasonal distribution patterns, evaluate habitat use, and assess factors influencing the timing of migration.  Specifically, we are teasing apart the relative influence that hunting pressure, snow and other weather events, food quality, and land management have on determining when the West Green River elk depart from their summer ranges.  This work will inform management decisions for population management and resource protection of the sagebrush-steppe landscape they occupy.



NPS- Fossil Butte National Monument: Research at Fossil Butte National Monument began in 2005 at the request of federal and state resource managers. Concern over increased use of the Monument by elk and possible resource damage lead to the current cooperative effort lead by the USGS and supported by the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Wyoming Game & Fish Department, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and US Forest Service. This research is funded by the USGS- Natural Resources Preservation Program and has received additional funding from the USGS, NPS, and WGFD. Our current focus is to identify spatial and temporal distribution characteristics of the West Green River elk herd for use in population management and resource protection. We hope to use the information collected to facilitate future research into the relationships among habitat quality, management practices, and ungulate distributions.

BLM- Kemmerer Field Office: Research focused on assessing elk response to BLM management activities began in late 2006. This pilot effort is funded primarily by the BLM- Challenge Grant Program. The USGS and WGFD have provided additional funding and project support. Our current focus is to collect baseline information on elk spatial ecology and quantify elk response to management activities (e.g., prescribed fire, sagebrush treatment, and grazing) as indicated by changes in spatial and temporal distribution characteristics. We are currently pursuing additional funding to increase sampling effort and hope to use the information collected to facilitate future research similar to that proposed for adjacent NPS lands.