Spatial acclimation of elk during population restoration to the Missouri Ozarks, USA

E. M. Pero, E. C. Palm, M. C. Chitwood, A. M. Hildreth, B. J. Keller, J. A. Sumners, L. P. Hansen, J. L. Isabelle, J. J. Millspaugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Wildlife translocations are an important conservation tool but can be challenging for the animals. For translocations to be successful, animals must adjust to their release landscape. Investigating how animals acclimate to their release landscapes can improve post-release monitoring and inform about the management needs of translocated populations. We investigated movements and resource selection dynamics of 106 elk (Cervus canadensis) during the first 6–8 years following their release to Missouri, USA in 2011–2013. We observed evidence of spatial acclimation as determined by cessation of changes in resource selection together with monthly range sizes and fidelity of individual elk. Females showed faster evidence of acclimation in their movements following release than males. Although range fidelity for both sexes stabilized within approximately seven months, range size stabilized within approximately three months for females and stabilization began within approximately 11 months for males. Selection for multiple resources by elk also largely stabilized within their first year following release. A simple refuge-forage trade-off alone did not explain acclimation in resource selection. Elk selected for high-quality food plots across the temporal extent of restoration regardless of time since release, whereas their selection for cover resources during summer increased after elk acclimated. Together, spatial acclimation generally lagged behind physiological responses observed in this system, adding to the increasing evidence that translocated animals display acclimation patterns across trait-specific time periods. Our approach demonstrates the utility of accounting for acclimation effects across multiple spatial response metrics for improving post-release monitoring, evaluation, and management of restored wildlife populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)789-801
Number of pages13
JournalAnimal Conservation
Volume26
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023

Keywords

  • acclimation
  • movement behavior
  • reintroduction
  • resource selection
  • restoration
  • space use
  • translocation
  • ungulate

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