Elk Habitat Use In Colorado’s Gunnison Basin

SCI Foundation is proud to team up with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department to uncover previously unknown information about elk habitat usage and movement patterns – information that is starting to help guide elk management decisions for the state wildlife agency.  GPS collar data will be turned into ‘Heat Maps’ to provide important occupancy patterns for elk in the Gunnison Basin that will help guide management decisions for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department. Long distance movements recorded from the GPS collars are already showing how elk move across federal jurisdictional and game management unit boundaries more than initially thought. Local state and federal managers are taking notice of this and starting to plan differently in terms of long term elk conservation.  This study will shed light on how a growing human footprint can destabilize the elk movements, and thus elk hunting opportunities.

Species involved: Elk

Project partners: Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Colorado Department of Natural Resources

Total SCIF Investment: $50,000

Year SCIF began involvement: 2017 (Project timeline: 2013-2019)

 

Project Objectives

1) Measure habitat use patterns elk habitat selection throughout the Gunnison Basin.

2) Create a better harvest management plan, based on seasonal use.

3) Formulate plans for habitat improvements to benefit elk populations.

 

Anticipated Outcomes

The Gunnison Basin is one of Colorado’s prime elk hunting and viewing areas and has been the subject of long-term studies of elk ecology. The data collected answer many questions about drivers of elk movement response to dramatic forest changes. The development of utilization maps from these data can also influence harvest. These data will be used to design long-term habitat and harvest management plans.