Restoration of Elk and Colonization of Black Bears In Kentucky

  • Maehr, David (PI)

Grants and Contracts Details


This narative summarizes the research and needed support to evaluate the success of elk restoraton? and, the status of natural black bear colonization in Kentucky. The work is a contmuatlOn ~t projects started in i 997. Thus far, the \vork bas produced 4 I\LS. theses and a Ph.D. dlsseliarion. Currently, 3 projects are in progress. Projects I) C:°rrelates of Black Bear Dispersal and Public Acceptance of a Colonizing Carnivore In Eastern Kentucky - The evolving technologiesof GIS and GPS offer researchers and managers unprecedented vision with respect to current and future relations between wildlife and the landscape. Topography, natural landforms, plant communities and a variety of anthropogenic land uses will dictate the patterns of black bear colonization in eastern Kentucky. Similarly, human attitudes win influence the degree to which management agencies can actively manage this self-restoring population. This project will examine public attitudes toward the black bear via a mail survey, and will examine movement patterns of bears that live along the colonizing front of bear population expansion. It will also develop a predictive model that examines the likely pathways of colonization and potential for population growth. The primary needs for this project are salary support for 2 students, travel, and flight time. 2) Elk-While-tailed Deer- Coyote Interactions - The restoration of elk in Kentucky has returned an evolutionary and ecological influence that has been missing for nearly two centuries. Changes in the landscape have encouraged the establishment of the medium:§ized canid, the coyote, and have resulted in landscape conditions that favor the edge-using generalist herbivore, the elk. Although deer were likely more abundant than elk before European colonization of North America, an increase in unforested landscapes may favor the elk. The degree to which elk might compete with deer for food and space, and the degree to which elk are ecologically and behaviorally dominant is unknown. Further, a well-established coyote population may become a significant predator of elk calves. This study details the amount of habitat use overlap between elk and white-tailed deer, and addresses the potential for the naturalized coyote to impact elk population gro~1h through calf predation. A Ph.D. student is in the last year of the project and will be supported primarily through a UK dissertation year fellowship. 3) Food Habits and Nutrition in a Reintroduced Eastern Kentucky Elk Herd - The success of Kentucky in achieving its goal of >7000 elk in 14 counties (Phillips 1997) will depend in large part on the availability and quality of forage. Recent reproductive patterns and population growth suggest that elk in eastern Kentucky exist on a high nutritional plane (Larkin 200 I). However, landscape changes related to surface mining, reclamation, and altered successional patterns make elk habitat management an inexact science. This is especially true when the most preferred and nutritious foods are unknown. As Nelson and Leege (1982:323) observed, "effective elk habitat management requires skillful application of integrated knowledge of the animals' diet, their need for nutriment, cover, and space, and how to manipulate habitat to provide for these needs." Whereas the importance of diet in ove~inter healt~ may be less in the relatively snow-free, low-elevation southern Appalachian Mountams than i~nthe Roc~y TVrol/ntains, rnalHlen
Effective start/end date7/1/036/30/04


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