Human Influences on Elk Movement Rates and Resource Selection in the Wildland-Urban Interface.

Scientific Disciplines
Biological Sciences - Terrestrial
missoula, montana
University of Montana
University Montana Missoula Montana
North Hills Elk Herd Missoula Montana
Montana Fish Wildlife Parks
resource selection
elk movement
wildlandurban interface
elk movement rates
movement rates resource selection
wildland urban interface
human influences on elk
Volume 16, No. 4

Human influences on elk movement rates and resource 
selection in the wildland-urban interface.

Shawn M. Cleveland,* Mark Hebblewhite, Paul Krausman, and Kerry Foresman, University of 
Montana, Missoula, Montana 59812
Mike Thompson, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Missoula, Montana 59802
Elk (Cervus elaphus) are known to select for refuge from hunting by humans (elk 
hunting). In many areas in the western U.S., elk hunting is completely excluded in the 
wildland-urban interface (WUI) as a result of land ownership change and subdivision, thus 
providing refugia for elk. Many of these WUI elk populations are increasing rapidly, and 
pose a significant credibility challenge to wildlife managers. The North Hills Elk Herd, in 
Missoula, Montana, has been growing at ~11 percent since the early 1980s, and the herd now 
numbers over 300 animals. Landownership is a complex matrix of public and private lands 
that range from partial to complete exclusion of hunting, thus elk hunting pressure is low and 
provides multiple refugia. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks used elk hunting in this setting 
to reduce population growth, crop depredation, and habituation. Little is known about the 

efficacy of elk hunting on elk movement rates and habitat selection. We used First-Passage 
Time (FPT) and Resource Selection Functions (RSF) analysis based on nine GPS collared 
adult female elk during three hunting seasons with increasing hunting pressure (2007-2009) 
to test relationships between elk movement rates and resource selection in the WUI. Elk FPT 
decreased annually, if they were accessible, and differed by hunting mode and season. Elk 
selected for intermediate distances from homes, trails, and weakly avoided access. These 
data have been used to modify hunting season structure, acquire conservation easements, and 
develop lasting partnerships in a complex matrix of ownerships.