Multiscale influences on Elk (Cervus canadensis) calving site selection across a fragmented Appalachian landscape

Nathan D. Hooven, Kathleen E. Williams, John T. Hast, Joseph R. McDermott, R. Daniel Crank, Matthew Springer, John J. Cox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Due to the vulnerability of neonatal ungulates, selection of a birth site can have important implications for offspring survival and thus fitness of the mother. We studied parturition site selection in cow Elk in southeastern Kentucky, United States, using a use-Availability framework to evaluate the effects of landscape variables sampled at multiple spatial grains on the relative probability of use of parturition sites. We identified 81 Elk parturition sites during May-Aug 2020-2022 and fit several candidate resource selection function models using a sample of 24,314 random locations to characterize habitat availability. Using an information-Theoretic approach to rank candidate models, we identified two top-performing models (cumulative ωi = 0.97), which indicated that at fine spatial grains (~10-and 30-m pixels) parturient cow Elk selected for intermediate canopy cover and lower terrain ruggedness compared to available locations. At coarse grains (250-1,000-m buffers/neighborhoods), Elk selected against vegetation greenness/biomass, for higher topographic positions, for closer proximity to major roads, and with higher solar radiation potential. We also found evidence that Elk responded positively to forest/open edge densities at coarse grains, demonstrating that calving habitat throughout the Kentucky Elk Restoration Zone is associated with heterogeneous landscapes resulting from surface mine reclamation. As a result, habitat management actions should aim to increase patchy, early successional shrub cover on gentle topography.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1264-1278
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Mammalogy
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Society of Mammalogists,


  • birth site
  • Cervus canadensis
  • habitat selection
  • landscape
  • parturition
  • resource selection function
  • spatial grain
  • ungulate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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