Cow Elk Survival and Mortality Study

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.9. 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 a follow-up study to reassess cow elk survival and cause-specific mortality that will serve as an important benchmark for management of this important population class for the next decade. In addition, having a marked sample of cows would provide a sampling mechanism for an anticipated additional study comparing the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of aerial and ground population estimation methods for elk in Appalachia.
Effective start/end date11/28/1210/1/14


  • Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation: $17,879.00


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