Abstract - Elk Food Habits and Range Interactions with Other Herbivores in Wind Cave National Park - Final Report
Wydevan, Adrian P. 1977. Elk food habits and range interactions with other herbivores in Wind Cave National Park. Iowa State University. Final Report. 22 p.
Data on food habits and range utilization were obtained on elk (Cervus elaphus) in Wind Cave National Park (WCNP), South Dakota 6 June - 31 December 1976. Plant composition in the rumen of an elk taken in summer consisted of 50% forbs, 28% browse, and 22% graminoids; yellow sweetclover (Metilotus officinalis) had the highest composition of any taxon (30%). Late-summer plant utilization, as indicated by feeding0site examinations, was mainly on graminoids (87%), while autumn and warly-winter utilization was mostly on forbs (62% and 71% respectively). Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) was the major plant eaten in late summer, while sagewort (Artemisisa spp.) was the major plant eaten in autumn-early winter. Elk and mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) selected range sites dominated by bluestems (Andropogon spp.), while bison (Bison bison) and pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) selected range sites dominated by western wheatgrass (Agyopyron smithii) and needlegrass (Stipa spp.). Both cervids also utlilzed forested areas. Postmortem examinations were performed on 13 elk collected in WCNP; al apeared to be in good condition. The estimated calf:cow ratio for autumn 1976 was 64:100.
Did You Know?
Fire is an important factor in protecting the prairie. Historically, fires burned across the prairie every 4 to 7 years. Fires burn the small trees that would otherwise march across the prairie and turn the grasslands to forest.