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Elk Habitat Selection on the Clearwater National Forest, Idaho

James W. Unsworth, Lonn Kuck, Edward O. Garton and Bart R. Butterfield
The Journal of Wildlife Management
Vol. 62, No. 4 (Oct., 1998), pp. 1255-1263
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Wildlife Society
DOI: 10.2307/3801989
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3801989
Page Count: 9
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Elk Habitat Selection on the Clearwater National Forest, Idaho
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Abstract

Habitat management for bull and cow elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) may require different forest management standards because of likely sexual differences in distribution and habitat selection patterns. Current standards are based on the habitat use patterns of cow elk. Thus, we located 121 radiocollared elk (101 bulls, 20 cows) 4,527 times in the forested habitats of northcentral Idaho during 1986-90 to determine patterns of habitat selection. During winter, habitat selection patterns of ≥2-year-old and yearling bull elk were similar, but cow elk used more shrub habitats and less-open timber types. Cows typically used moderately steep areas on south-facing to west-facing aspects on the middle to lower elevational portions of the winter range. Bulls were more often found using small benches or ridgetop areas near the upper portion of hillsides. From spring through fall, elk shifted from using a high proportion of shrub and open timber habitats to use of timber habitats. In general, elk in areas with roads used habitats with greater canopy cover. This pattern was most pronounced for cow and ≥2-year-old bull elk. Yearling bulls tended to select habitats in proportion to availability, whereas cow and ≥2-year-old bull elk showed preference for open timber habitats during fall in non-roaded habitats and for timber habitat in areas with roads during summer and fall. Bulls tended to use higher proportions of lower slopes and stream bottoms than did cows during summer, and somewhat steeper areas during fall. Concern over forage production on summer range should be secondary to reducing disturbance and providing secure habitat during fall hunting seasons.

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