Estimating Reproductive Rates of Cow Elk and Calf Survival in Southeast Kentucky

Grants and Contracts Details

Description

Elk (Cervus elaphus canadensis) were successfully reintroduced to southeastern Kentucky beginning in 1997. Since then, elk have exhibited a decade-long irruptive growth pattern in the absence of mortality factors that commonly limit its abundance in more western portions of North America. By many measures, the reintroduction has been a profound success – recreational opportunities and ecological restoration of an important megaherbivore have been accomplished. Researchers at the University of Kentucky and Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources have studied the habitat use, space use and movement patterns, and demographics of reintroduced elk in Kentucky for over two decades. However, demographic data important for accurate population modeling, such as reproductive rates, calf survival and recruitment are 10-20 years old and were obtained using older wildlife tracking technologies that can produce biased data sets. Furthermore, we know very little about the reproductive capacity of yearling cow elk, a demographic group that can have profound impacts on population growth. In this study, we propose to equip adult and yearling females with GPS satellite transmitters and use vaginal implant transmitters to estimate natality of reproductive female, and estimate survival, recruitment, and determine cause-specific mortality of newborn calves. These data will be critical for creating updated population models necessary to establish harvest rates and satisfy management objectives that respect ecological and sociological carrying capacities. In partnership with KDFWR personnel, fieldwork will be conducted by two Department of Forestry and Natural Resources master’s level graduate students at the University of Kentucky. GPS collar-equipped elk will be monitored for at least 2-3 years for data collection. Objectives Study Objectives: Estimate adult and yearling cow natality (reproduction) Estimate calf survival, cause-specific mortality, and recruitment rates Expected Results and Benefits coAs the elk population in eastern Kentucky has grown and expanded in range, it is imperative to update and refine our knowledge about key population parameters needed to inform population models that are the empirical basis for elk management, including critical decisions concerning harvest numbers and formulation of population estimates.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date7/31/206/30/21

Funding

  • KY Department of Fish and Wildlife: $259,000.00

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