Abstract - Wind Cave National Park Elk Herd: Home Ranges, Seasonal Movements, and Alternative Control Methods

Bauman, Peter J. 1998. The Wind Cave National Park Elk Herd: Home Ranges, Seasonal Movements, and Alternative Control Methods. M.S. Thesis. South Dakota State University. 132 p.


Elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) herd organization, movements, and home range size in Wind Cave National Park (WICA) were studied form May 1996 to August 1997. Twenty radiocollared elk (10 males, 10 females) were relocated by ground and aerial telemetry. Radiocollared elk were relocated two times/week, resulting in 1,595 relocations (410 ground, 1,185 aerial). Coefficients of association (CA) for radiocollared cows averaged 0.005 during spring/summer 1996, 0.033 during spring/summer 1997, and 0.295 during fall/winter 1996. Coefficients of associating for radiocollared bulls averaged 0.011 during spring/summer 1996, 0.015 during spring/summer 1997, and 0.075 during fall/winter 1996, Three cow subherds (primary Beaver Creek, secondary Beaver Creek, and Gobbler Knob), and three bull groups (Beaver Creek, Boland Ridge, and Pleasant Valley) were observed. Fall/winter 1996 adaptive kernel 95 and 50% mean home range sizes were: primary Beaver Creek cow herd (41.6 ± 0.8 and 10.4 ± 0.6 km2), secondary Beaver Creek cow herd (41.4 ± 2.4 and 10.4 ± 1.4 km2), Gobbler Knob cow herd (22.9 ± 4.4 and 4.0 ± 0.6 km2), Beaver Creek bull group (21.7 ± 4.5 km2 and 4.0 ± 0.9 km2), Boland Ridge bull grouped (undetermined), and Pleasant Valley Bull group (243.1 and 24.8 km2). Spring/summer 1996 and spring/summer 1997 adaptive kernel 95 and 50% home range sizes were not significantly different for cows or bulls (p > 0.10), and data were pooled. Total summer adaptive kernal 95 and 50% home range sizes were: primary Beaver Creek cows (34.7 ± 2.8 and 8.6 ± 2.0 km2), secondary Beaver Creek cows (56.0 ± 3.0 and 9.0 ± 2.1 km2), Gobbler knob cows (26.5 ± 8.1 and 5.6 ± 2.6 km2), Beaver Creek bulls (40.0 ± 11.8 and 9.3 ± 4.8 km2). Radiocollared cows from the Gobbler Knob and secondary Beaver Creek herds moved out of the park during spring and summer and returned during fall and winter. Cows used open prairie habitat during all times of day during winter. In summer, cows used prairie habitat during morning and evening and timber during midday. In winter, bulls used prairie, mixed habitat, and timber habitat equally in the morning. Bulls used timber during midday and prairie during evening in winter. Bulls used timber habitat during morning and midday in summer, but showed no difference in evening habitat use. Elk movement between WICA and the Black Hills National Forest was monitored with a line/weight method, still cameras, video camera, and tracks. Line/weight method resulted in 1,431 instances of animal activity during 142 sampling sessions. Activity was recorded at 137 of the 940 sections of fence with varying frequency (range = 1=70). Total movement was nearly 50:50 (in 582 [51%], out 554 [49%], undetermined = 182, bitten = 113). Still camera data showed maximum animal activity occurred during the spring and fall months, but no difference (p > 1.0) in movement was found during any month of the study. Elk herds moved across the fence (n = 329) more than bulls (n = 28) (p < 0.01). Herds increased total movements in fall and spring and decreased total movement in summer and winter. Bulls increased total movement during fall and showed relatively little movement in all other months. More (p = 0.0073) nocturnal (n = 201) than diurnal (n = 71) movement occurred. Nocturnal movement was greatest in fall and corresponded with the onset of the hunting season. Species-selective experimental one-way elk gates were developed as an alternative to elk roundups. Preliminary analysis indicated that elk move through the gates in the intended direction and that one-way gates may be a viable option for elk population control.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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