Wildlife Damage Management, Internet Center for


Date of this Version

February 1997


In areas where elk (Cervus elephus) and livestock, mainly cattle (Bos taurus), occupy the same rangeland the potential for competition exists, which may adversely effect each species. Competition between these herbivores may occur for herbaceous vegetation in areas with high elk numbers and moderate livestock numbers. In portions of the Gila National Forest some ranchers claim that the steady increase in elk numbers has caused them to run livestock numbers below that allocated by the United States Forest Service. This has resulted in numerous management challenges including the management of forage utilization for livestock and wildlife. A research study was designed to obtain documented information on livestock and elk forage utilization in portions of the Gila National Forest. To determine forage utilization we concentrated on five selected riparian areas. Our three main objectives were 1) determine an index of relative elk and livestock use, 2) determine forage utilization by elk, and 3) determine utilization by elk and livestock combined. Current data from the study shows a trend that forage utilization in riparian areas during spring and summer months is heavy regardless of which species is present. During fall and winter months utilization of riparian areas decreases dramatically. However, data has only been collected for one year and is still in progress. During the year this data was collected (1996) the Gila National Forest was experiencing below average precipitation causing drought like conditions and a decrease in upland forage. Due to these conditions, elk and livestock populations concentrated in riparian areas causing an increase in forage utilization.