Cow and Calf Elk Survival and Cause-Specific Mortality

Grants and Contracts Details


: Elk reintroduced to southeastern Kentucky from 1997-2002 experienced rapid population growth during the subsequent decade and now number an estimated 10,000. The high number of initial founders, mild winters, habitat quantity, and very limited predation are thought to be the primary factors responsible for high initial survival and growth rates that mimic irruptive growth patterns observed in other ungulate species. For example, radio-collared cows monitored during the first 5 years of the reintroduction had an annual survival of 0.90, while yearling cows had a remarkable 0.97 survival rate. Similarly, calves monitored from 2001-2007 had a 0.90 survival rate. Irruptive population growth in ungulates has often be followed by periods of sharp decline resulting from density-dependent mechanisms that lead to reduced natality, recruitment, and survival of neonates and reproductive age females. Maintaining a sustainable annual harvest of elk in Kentucky well into the future will require long-term monitoring of the elk population. These data will be essential to informing management actions that can be responsive to changing elk demographics and other considerations. Continuous, long-term monitoring of select large mammal population parameters (e.g. age or gender-specific survival) is often economically unfeasible. Therefore, recurring periodic assessments in the form of short-term, research studies are often the most effective way to evaluate changes in animal populations across relevant time periods. Herein, a decade after the initial study of reintroduced cow elk in Kentucky, we propose to complete the third year of a follow-up study to reassess cow elk survival, cause-specific mortality, and disease susceptibility that will serve as an important benchmark for management of this important age-gender class for the next decade.
Effective start/end date7/23/145/1/16


  • Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation: $29,200.00


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