Faculty Mentor

Dr. Margaret O'Connell

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Quaking Aspen (Populus tremulodies) is considered priority habitat because it supports diverse understory flora and provides critical nesting and foraging habitat for wildlife. Aspen populations in western North America have declined due to fire suppression and browsing. Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Washington addressed declining aspen with prescribed burns. However, aspen growth stimulated by burning was offset by browsing, especially by Elk (Cervus elaphus). Increasing elk numbers prompted initiation of a limited hunt to cull and disperse elk off refuge. To address the impact of these management strategies, we used remote video cameras to monitor activity of Elk, deer (Odocoileus virginianus and Odocoileus hemionus), and American Moose (Alces americanus). Cameras were positioned at five locations on the refuge. Video footage from March 2018 to January 2019 was analyzed to examine differences in seasonal activity, activity between hunt and non-hunt units during the hunting season and browsing activity on different plants. Elk were recorded 153, deer 228, and moose 99 times. Although mean activity between seasons was not significantly different, elk activity tended to decrease in winter. Elk are known to move off refuge in the winter. Low sample size limited comparisons of activity in hunt versus non-hunt areas during archery, modern firearm, and muzzleloader periods. Nonetheless, no species exhibited decreased activity in the hunt areas and deer activity was greater in these areas. Elk and deer spent more time browsing on dogwood than on aspen or grass; there is evidence that dogwood has higher nutritional value.