Elk population dynamics in areas with and without predation by recolonizing wolves in Banff National Park, Alberta

Mark Hebblewhite, Daniel H. Pletscher, Paul C. Paquet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations

Abstract

Gray wolves (Canis lupus) recolonized the Bow Valley of Banff National Park in the mid-1980s after a 30-year absence. Wolves recolonized one zone of the Bow Valley in 1985 and another in 1991, but human activity excluded wolves from a third zone throughout the study. Elk (Cervus elaphus) are the primary prey of wolves in Banff National Park. We studied the effects of wolf predation, snow depth, elk density, and human-caused mortality on the elk population growth rate in the three different wolf recolonization treatments from 1985 to 2000. We constructed a set of generalized linear models of factors affecting population growth, and used Akaike Information Criteria to guide model selection and inference. In the low wolf predation zone, elk population growth was density-dependent and limited by human-caused mortality. In the zone that wolves recolonized in 1991, elk population growth was limited by the combined effects of snow depth and wolf predation after wolf recolonization, in addition to preexisting mortality caused by humans and other predators. Our correlative approach failed to yield insights into population dynamics in the zone where wolves were present throughout the study. However, by comparing zones we demonstrate important differences in ungulate population dynamics in the presence and absence of wolf predation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)789-799
Number of pages11
JournalCanadian Journal of Zoology
Volume80
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - 2002

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