Genetic structure in Elk persists after translocation

Lisa I. Muller, Jennifer L. Murrow, Jason L. Lupardus, Joseph D. Clark, Joseph G. Yarkovich, William H. Stiver, E. Kim Delozier, Brittany L. Slabach, John J. Cox, Bradley F. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

Elk (Cervus canadensis) translocation success is thought to be facilitated by high post-release herd cohesion and limited movements; both should ensure genetic mixing following release. Such mixing is important to reduce potential effects of inbreeding or genetic drift, which can be especially important in small founding populations. We had a natural experiment where we could evaluate genetic mixing of 2 distinct lineages of elk after translocation to the same area. Founding elk ultimately came from north and south of a road barrier at Elk Island National Park (EINPN or EINPS, respectively), Alberta, Canada and the 2 groups were genetically distinct. During 2000 to 2003, elk originating from Elk Island National Park were translocated to Cumberland Mountains, Tennessee (TNCM) and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina (GSMNP), USA (some elk spent time at Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area, Kentucky, USA, before their final translocation). At TNCM, translocated elk were hard released, whereas at GSMNP elk were held in pens up to 60 days before release (i.e., soft release). We hypothesized that associations formed in the source population would affect genetic structure in the future population. We predicted that matrilineal groups would stay closer together and have similar movements after translocation. We used 16 microsatellite markers to analyze genetic composition and structure of translocated elk and their offspring in the years after release. Most source elk used for translocation strongly assigned to either EINPN or EINPS (93.2%, n = 204). Evaluating the genetic structure of offspring after translocation, we found the 2 genetic groups mostly persisted ≥11 years following release. We measured the Euclidean distance between all possible pairs of telemetered female elk during each season and year and calculated the maximum distance moved from the release sites for females surviving >1 year. Mean Euclidean distances between pairwise locations of female elk were similar for each genetic cluster for each area. The mean distances for all paired locations (genetic clusters combined) in TNCM were 14.67 km (n = 4,576 ± 13.23 [SD]) and in GSMNP were 9.30 km (n = 1,468 ± 9.75). However, when looking at only simultaneous locations <50 m apart, the frequency of occurrence was higher (P < 0.001) for elk with the same genetic structure (71.1%) compared with those with different structure (28.9%). The maximum distance travelled from the release site was not different for the 2 genetic groups, but EINPN females tended to travel farther. Pairwise female distances were lower in GSMNP where we used a soft release. Release methodology and social structure appear to affect movements and possibly genetic mixing after translocation. Given that restoration success can depend on maintaining genetic diversity and number of founders, our analyses suggest that within-cluster breeding bias can result in lower genetic variability and a smaller effective population size than previously assumed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1124-1134
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Wildlife Management
Volume82
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. We thank D. H. Paetkau, J. W. Lenek, J. W. Irvine, J. W. Benson, and L. R. Harris for genetic analysis and interpretation. We especially thank D. H. Paetkau for determining the elk substructuring at EINP. This project was greatly aided by cooperation of Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Parks Canada, EINP, United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, TWRA, North Carolina Wildlife Resource Agency, The Eastern Band of Cherokee, Tennessee Conservation League, and Campbell Outdoor Recreation Association. We thank J. L. Kindall, W. S. Bennett, S. W. Stooksbury, W. Farmer, B. J. Wear, S. T. Dobey, R. Kaye, N. L. Cool, B. A. Chisholm, C. Szafron, S. D. Daniels Jr. for their assistance with sample collection and help in the field. We thank F. T. van Manen for review of the manuscript. The project was funded and supported by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch project 1012932, University of Tennessee, Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Great Smoky Mountains Association, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Center for Wildlife Health Organized Research Unit at the University of Tennessee.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Wildlife Society, 2018

Copyright:
Copyright 2018 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • Cervus canadensis
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • STRUCTURE
  • genetic mixing
  • hard release
  • paired movements
  • restoration
  • soft release

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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