Herd organization of cow elk in Custer State Park, South Dakota

Joshua J. Millspaugh, Gary C. Brundige, Robert A. Gitzen, Kenneth J. Raedeke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Understanding herd organization is important when considering management alternatives designed to benefit or manipulate elk (Cervus elaphus) populations. We studied the seasonal and annual herd organization of cow elk in Custer State Park, South Dakota from 1993-1997 by examining seasonal subherd range size, spatial arrangement, overlap, and site fidelity. Based on social interaction analyses, we combined locations of radiocollared cow elk to delineate subherds. We computed 95% kernel home ranges with least-squares cross validation for each subherd by season and year. Subherd overlap and fidelity by season and year were computed using the Volume of Intersection Index (W) statistic. We identified 5 relatively discrete, resident cow-calf subherds. We observed little overlap in utilization distributions of adjacent subherds. The mean VI score across all subherds and time points (n = 140) was 0.06 (SE = 0.009), indicating an average 6% overlap in subherd area utilization. Subherd overlap between pairs was 0.08 in fall (SE = 0.021), 0.06 in winter (SE = 0.018), 0.06 in spring (SE = 0.2), and 0.05 in summer (SE = 0.016). Range sizes were not different between any pairs of seasons or years (F13,52 = 0.7, P = 0.75). Subherd fidelity ranged from 0.41 (SE = 0.033) to 0.60 (SE = 0.018) overall, indicating differential use within the subherd boundary across years. The ability to distinguish discrete cow-calf subherd units is consistent with other studies and may aid elk management in Custer State Park. However, use patterns within subherd boundaries were inconsistent across years and may reflect human disturbances (e.g., hunting and logging activities), differences in our sampling approach, or changes in matriarchal leadership. Further evaluation into factors affecting space-use patterns is necessary to predict changes in range use within the subherd boundary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)506-514
Number of pages9
JournalWildlife Society Bulletin
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2004


  • Cervus elaphus nelsoni
  • Home range
  • Kernel
  • Rocky mountain elk
  • Social organization
  • Subherd
  • Utilization distribution
  • Volume of intersection


Dive into the research topics of 'Herd organization of cow elk in Custer State Park, South Dakota'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this