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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 37(8)

Management of damage by elk (Cervus elaphus) in North America: a review

W. David Walter A, Michael J. Lavelle A, Justin W. Fischer A, Therese L. Johnson B, Scott E. Hygnstrom C and Kurt C. VerCauteren A D

A United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services, National Wildlife Research Center, 4101 LaPorte Ave., Fort Collins, CO 80521, USA.
B Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, CO 80517, USA.
C University of Nebraska, School of Natural Resources, 415 Hardin Hall, 3310 Holdrege Street, Lincoln, NE 68583, USA.
D Corresponding author. Email: Kurt.C.VerCauteren@aphis.usda.gov

Wildlife Research 37(8) 630-646 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WR10021
Submitted: 11 February 2010  Accepted: 16 September 2010   Published: 22 December 2010

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Abundant populations of elk (Cervus elaphus) are cherished game in many regions of the world and also cause considerable human–wildlife conflicts through depredation on agriculture and speciality crops, lack of regeneration to native ecosystems, collisions with vehicles and transmission of disease between free-ranging and farmed hoofstock. Management of elk varies, depending on current and historical agency objectives, configuration of the landscapes elk occupy, public perception, population density and behaviour of elk. Selection of the method to manage elk often requires knowledge of timing of impacts, duration relief from elk damage is desired, cost-effectiveness of management activities, tolerance of impacts, public perception of management strategies and motivation or habituation of elk to determine the likelihood of success for a proposed management action. We reviewed methods that are available to control abundant populations of elk that include lethal (e.g. hunting, sharpshooting) and non-lethal (e.g. fertility control, frightening) options. We promote an integrated approach that incorporates the timely use of a variety of cost-effective methods to reduce impacts to tolerable levels. Lethal options that include regulated hunting, sharpshooting and aerial gunning vary by likelihood of success, duration needed for population reduction, cost to implement reduction and public perceptions. Several non-lethal options are available to affect population dynamics directly (e.g. fertility control, translocation), protect resources from damage (e.g. fences, repellents) or influence space use of elk on a regular basis (e.g. harassment, frightening, herding dogs, humans). Public perception should be considered by agencies that are looking for feasible methods to control populations of elk. Disturbance to residents or visitors of public property may influence methods of management employed. Future research should explore the duration of harassment needed to avert elk from sensitive areas and costs to implement such programs. Several methods in our review were implemented on deer and additional research on elk and other cervids in conflict with human interests would provide a much needed component to our understanding of management methods available for ungulate species.

Additional keywords.Cervus elaphus, damage, ecosystem, elk, fence, fertility control, frightening, habituation, hazing, lethal, non-lethal, regeneration.


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