Date of Award

2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS) in Biology

Department

Biology

Abstract

"In the arid West, quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) cover less than 10% of the forest landscape, yet support a disproportionate diversity of native plants and animals. When elk (Cervus elaphus) become overabundant, browsing prevents aspen regeneration, reduces survival, and consequently impacts local biodiversity. Given this, Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge (TNWR) initiated a limited annual elk hunt beginning in fall 2010. This study examines whether the hunt affected elk usage of the refuge and, indirectly, aspen growth and regeneration. To determine elk movement and usage of the refuge prior to and following the elk hunt, 34 radio-collared cow elk were monitored bi-weekly and during 24-hour tracking sessions from July 2010 thru April 2011. To determine the effects of elk hunting on aspen regeneration, 5 attributes of aspen were measured in 24 2X20m transects in aspen stands, located within and outside hunt areas. Aspen stands were measured in spring and fall 2010, and repeated in spring and fall 2011. Bi-weekly and 24-hour elk radio-telemetry data both indicated that elk decreased their use of TNWR and hunt areas of TNWR during the second half of the hunting season and two months following the end of the hunting season. Elk returned to TNWR and hunt areas three to four months after the end of the hunting season. There were no measurable changes in aspen regeneration among the time periods measured. However, there were fewer and taller aspen suckers (trees

Comments

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