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Evaluating carnivore harvest as a tool for increasing elk calf survival and recruitment

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Elk (Cervus canadensis) are an iconic species throughout the western United States and play a large role across ecological (Kauffman et al. 2010), social (Haggerty and Travis 2006) and economic (US Department of the Interior et al. 2014) landscapes. However, since the early 2000’s, declines in elk numbers and recruitment (i.e., calf survival from birth to age 1) in some parts of the western United States resulted in concerns that the recovery of large carnivores such as wolves (Canis lupus), mountain lions (Puma concolor) and grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) has affected elk populations (Bunnell et al. 2002, Griffin et al. 2011a). Thus, wildlife managers are increasingly focused on understanding and managing the effects of predation on elk populations. Carnivore recovery is important to elk populations because predation may be a proximate limiting and regulating factor for many elk populations (Messier 1994, Hebblewhite et al. 2002, Garrott et al. 2008c). In addition to carnivore recovery, changing elk harvest management prescriptions, shifts in land use, and changing habitat and climatic conditions all contribute to a complex suite of variables with the potential to affect elk population dynamics. Because of this complexity, understanding the effects of predation on elk population dynamics is difficult, and determining appropriate management actions is challenging.

Document: MT-elk-wolf-study.pdf  PDF icon

Author(s): Dr. Jay Rotella, Benjamin Jimenez, Dr. Robert Garrott, Mike Forzley, Dr. Kelly Proffitt, Dr. J. Terrill Paterson

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