Study Tracks Hunting Pressure, Elk Habitat Usage

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Researchers are utilizing helicopters and net gunners in the Sapphire Mountains of western Montana to capture and fit an additional 16 elk with GPS collars. Their goal is to determine the effect that hunting pressure has on elk and how they, in turn, use the habitat around them.

Past findings from the research shined a light on migrations in the Bitterroot Valley.

“Overall, my work reveals that irrigated agriculture provides a strong nutritional incentive for elk to forego seasonal migration, but this effect on migratory behavior can be mitigated by the predictable presence of high-quality forage outside agricultural areas,” Kristin Barker, University of Montana graduate student, told the Ravalli Republic.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation provided funding for the ongoing study.

“All of these elk will be available to hunters next fall,” Rebecca Mowry, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologist, told the Ravalli Republic. “If a hunter does harvest an elk with a collar, it’s really important that we get those back.”

(Photo source: Addie Ahern)