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Title: Summer-fall home-range fidelity of female elk in northwestern Colorado: Implications for aspen management

Author: Brough, April M.; DeRose, R. Justin; Conner, Mary M.; Long, James N.;

Date: 2017

Source: Forest Ecology and Management. 389: 220-227.

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Understanding the degree of spatial fidelity exhibited by individuals within a species increases our ability to manage for desired future outcomes. Elk (Cervus elaphus) is a closely managed species in the Western US, but there is little research evaluating their summer home-range fidelity. Elk summer-fall homeranges overlap considerably with aspen (Populus tremuloides)-dominated forest types, and elk can impact aspen regeneration because it is a preferred browse species. We evaluated the fidelity of 72 adult female elk to individual summer-fall home ranges in northwestern Colorado, USA, during two consecutive summers (1996 and 1997). To compare elk summer-fall home-range overlap and distribution based on individual kernel-estimated utilization distributions, we calculated the volume-of-intersection statistic and the inter-annual distances between centers-of-mass. We found adult female elk in the White River Study area exhibited strong fidelity to individual home ranges. Volume-of-intersection results indicated that 93% of the elk showed explicit home-range overlap between 1996 and 1997, but that all the elk returned to the same vicinity as the previous year (median = 0.42, SE = 0.02, n = 72). Between-year center-of-mass distances ranged from 183 m to 34,170 m (mean = 3819, SE = 619, n = 72), while within-year maximum distances between location points ranged from 4320 m to 31,680 m (mean = 13,958, SE = 628, n = 72). Hunting increased the distance traveled by individual elk, but did not change the center of their home-range. Understanding female elk home-range fidelity could influence forest management focused on aspen regeneration. Specifically, targeted removal of female elk from their summer-fall home ranges could create a ‘window of opportunity’ in which browsing pressure was reduced, and the likelihood of aspen recruitment increased.

Keywords: aspen recruitment, aspen reproduction, browsing, coppice silviculture, elk (Cervus elaphus), home-range fidelity, philopatry

Publication Notes:

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Brough, April M.; DeRose, R. Justin; Conner, Mary M.; Long, James N. 2017. Summer-fall home-range fidelity of female elk in northwestern Colorado: Implications for aspen management. Forest Ecology and Management. 389: 220-227.


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