Influence of land development on home range use dynamics of female elk Academic Article uri icon


  • Context Many ungulate species exhibit strong site fidelity to previously established areas, particularly females. However, development of the landscape may cause animals to shift their distribution to more secure areas. Aims To determine range use dynamics (i.e. size and overlap of core areas and home ranges) of female elk (Cervus elaphus) relative to land development features (e.g. roads, well pads, buildings, developments, towns, etc.) after controlling for environmental features (i.e. forest cover). Methods During the four-year study, we fitted elk (n=165) with GPS collars annually and programmed collars to attempt one location fix every 3h (eight locations per day) for one year. Females (n=18) were subsequently recaptured and refitted with GPS collars to provide range use dynamics of individual elk over two to three years. We calculated sizes of core areas and home ranges using adaptive kernel estimators, overlap between annual ranges, and establishment of ranges relative to land development. Key results Overlap of annual core areas (48.6%) and home ranges (67.9%) was high despite annual increases in land development. Sizes of core areas and home ranges and annual overlap (i.e. site fidelity) were negatively influenced by land development after controlling for forest cover. Conclusions These data reveal that female elk show high levels of site fidelity even in the presence of increasing annual land development. Females did not appear to abandon previously established areas, but used ranges in a manner that minimised interaction with development within these areas based on reductions in range use size and fidelity as land development increased. Implications To help mitigate impacts on elk, land development should be minimised and large areas of forest protected so elk can avoid areas associated with human activity.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Webb, S. L., Dzialak, M. R., Harju, S. M., Hayden-Wing, L. D., & Winstead, J. B.

citation count

  • 24

complete list of authors

  • Webb, SL||Dzialak, MR||Harju, SM||Hayden-Wing, LD||Winstead, JB

publication date

  • 2011