Effects Of A Rest-Rotation Grazing System On Wintering Elk Distributions On The Wall Creek, Montana Winter Range

Scientific Disciplines
Biological Sciences - Terrestrial
montana fish wildlife and parks
grazing system
wall creek
rest rotation grazing systems
Volume 17, No. 1-4

Effects of a rest-rotation grazing system on wintering 
Elk distributions on the wall creek, montana winter 
Julee Shamhart,* Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, 1400 South 19th Street,  
Bozeman, Montana 59718 
Fred King, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, 1400 South 19th Street, Bozeman, Montana 59718 
Kelly Proffitt, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, 1400 South 19th Street, Bozeman, MT 59718; 
Understanding livestock grazing effects on wildlife remains an important conservation 
issue. The purpose of this project was to evaluate the effects of a rest-rotation grazing system 
on elk resource selection within the Wall Creek winter range in southwest Montana. We 
collected bi-weekly observations of elk (Cervus elaphus) number and distributions across 
the winter range from 1988-2007. Using a matched-case control logistic regression model 
to estimate selection coefficients, we evaluated the effects of annual green-up conditions, 
winter conditions, landscape features, and grazing treatment on elk resource selection within 
the grazing system. We found that within the grazing system, elk preferentially selected for 
rested pastures over pastures that were grazed the previous summer. The strength of selection 
against the pasture grazed during the growing season was strongest, and pastures grazed 
during the early and late summer were selected for over the pasture grazed during the growing 
season. The number of elk utilizing the grazing system increased in the 19 years following 
implementation of the grazing system; however, total elk herd size also increased during this 
time. We found no evidence that the proportion of the elk herd utilizing the grazing system 
changed following implementation of the rest-rotation grazing system.  Our results provide 
support for the principals of rest-rotation grazing systems. Wintering elk preference for 
rested pastures suggests rested pastures play an important role in rotation grazing systems 
by conserving forage for wintering elk.   We recommend wildlife managers maintain rested 
pastures within rotation grazing systems existing on ungulate winter range.