The Dichotomy Of Conservation – Managing Elk In The Wildland/Urban Interface Of Missoula , Montana

Scientific Disciplines
Biological Sciences - Terrestrial
Humanities & Social Sciences
Montana Fish Wildlife Parks
winter range
mount jumbo
wild land durban interface
Volume 17, No. 1-4

The dichotomy of conservation – Managing elk in the 
Wildland/urban interface of missoula , Montana
Victoria L. Edwards,* Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, 3201 Spurgin Road, Missoula, Montana 
The Missoula Valley in western Montana is home to nearly 800 wintering elk (Cervus 
elaphus), including the North Hills, Evaro, Jumbo, O’Brien Creek and Miller Creek 
herds. With the City of Missoula as the hub, the Valley has experienced substantial human 
population growth over the last 30 yrs. This increased growth and subsequent development 
has consumed and fragmented wildlife habitat and placed additional recreational demands on 
adjacent public lands. Wildlife biologists with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks have worked 
cooperatively with local governments, federal agencies, land trusts, other non-governmental 
organizations, and the general public to conserve and protect important elk winter range 
and habitat connectivity within the wildland/urban interface of the Missoula Valley. From a 
biological perspective, we have been extremely successful in managing for the persistence 
of elk populations. However, protecting winter range adjacent to and fragmented by human 
development has additional management challenges and costs.  Since 1980, the North Hills 
elk herd has grown an average of 11 percent per year, with a 48-percent growth rate occurring 
between 2000 and 2007. Without an effective harvest, this population is expected to double 
in less than seven years. To protect elk winter range and to continue to keep elk wild, wildlife 
biologists have needed to become more creative with their management and conservation 
strategies. This presentation discusses those strategies, as well as the dichotomy of conserving 
elk winter range and managing elk on human developed landscapes.