Elk Monitoring

A park ranger in green uniform squats with their back to the camera while writing on a clipboard. An unconscious elk lays in the grass in front of the ranger with a blue band across it's eyes and a collar around it's neck.

Elk on the Clatsop Plains

Roosvelt Elk (Cervus elaphus roosevelti) are quintessential to the Pacific Northwest and have cultural, historical and ecological significance within the Clatsop Plains. The heavy overlap of herd ranges with modern day developed area causes significant conflicts of concern. Beginning in 2008, Lewis and Clark National Historical Park and partners implemented a monitoring plan that gathers data on Clatsop Plains elk herds in and around lands owned by the National Park Service. These data are integral for sound understanding of local elk ecology and have direct implications on management decisions aiming for a balanced preservation of elk and human interests.

The project objectives are to detect changes in status and trends of elk within and around the Fort Clatsop and Yeon units of Lewis and Clark National Historical Park and facilitate new partnerships and educational programs. To learn more about the Inventory & Monitoring Protocol and read the first synthesis report (2008-2012), visit https://www.nps.gov/im/nccn/elk.htm.

Based on preliminary data and monitoring, there were early signs of decline in relative elk use of the Fort Clatsop unit. Elk monitoring is a critical part of managing the park lands, and NPS scientists will continue to monitor and collect detailed data about the elk. An updated trend report is anticipated to show more current information for elk movement, viewing opportunities, and relative use in and around the Fort Clatsop area.

range of herds on a map of clatsop county
Map of elk herds ranges in north Clatsop County

NPS graphic

Elk Collaring

The first six collars were configured to record locations on a 13-hour fixed interval throughout the year and a seven-hour interval during calving season. From 2019 – 2022, the park had six collars deployed over eight periods to provide range information for a total of seven individual elk. Estimated home ranges of the representative individuals were developed from the resulting data. While this does give us insight into general assumptions about elk home ranges and herd fidelity, it must be emphasized that this data represents a very small subset of individuals and there may be more variation that we did not capture.

Elk in a field with cattle in the foreground
Elk pass through a field with cattle.

NPS photo

Elk Driving Surveys

Driving surveys are designed to understand the relative visitor viewing opportunities from roadways that surround the Fort Clatsop unit; they are not intended as a means for population estimates. The graphic below shows the average herd group size for even months 2009 – 2021. Of the relative viewing opportunities in this data set, the median group size was around 10-20 elk and the maximum number observed in one group was 95 in 2018. Based on this preliminary data exploration, there appears to be no clear patterns of increase or decrease in viewing opportunities across time.

Bar graph of Elk herd group size
Bar graph of elk herd group size at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park from 2009 to 2021

Elk Pellet Monitoring

Twice a year, once in the fall and subsequently in the late winter, trained park staff and volunteers survey approximately 62 established plots within the 1,000-acre Fort Clatsop unit looking for elk pellets and recording information such as decay class of the pellets,and habitat attributes. This monitoring effort quantifies trends in relative elk use in the winter and proportion of area occupied by elk. The 2014 synthesis reported a slight decline in modelled proportion of area occupied by elk (2008 – 2012). Raw results (with no correction or modeling) as of 2021 indicate a distinct decline in area occupied by elk in the proportion of points with observed pellets.
Elk standing in the road
Elk walking through a neighborhood in Hammond, Oregon

Clatsop Plains Elk Collaborative, an Oregon Solutions project

In 2019, the Oregon governor designated the Clatsop Plains Elk Collaborative as an Oregon Solutions project, with the goal to reduce conflict between elk-human interactions, increase safety, and promote cohabitation. Lewis and Clark National Historical Park serves on the project team, providing data and educational resources. The park continues its established elk monitoring program and seeks funding for continuing analysis and collecting more detailed data for elk movement to share with the community. Clatsop Plains Elk Collaborative – Oregon Solutions (orsolutions.org)

Elk Etiquette

  • Keep your distance! Stay at least 50 yards from elk and other wildlife
  • Leash dogs and keep them away from elk and other wildlife
  • Don't feed the elk

Last updated: January 19, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Lewis and Clark National Historical Park
92343 Fort Clatsop Road

Astoria, OR 97103


503 861-2471
Rangers are available to answer your calls between the hours of 9 - 6 PST.

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