U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Published in Rangeland Ecol Manage 60:529–532 | September 2007.


Concentrated herbivory by elk (Cervus elaphus) can degrade vegetative communities and alter ecosystem processes. Areas severely damaged by elk are commonly protected with woven wire fence, which can exclude other animals. Complete exclusion and prevention of large mammal herbivory might not always be necessary to restore vegetative communities. We designed and evaluated a simple fence that excluded elk, but maintained access for deer and other species. We enclosed a 1-ha stand of quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides Michaux) with our fence in an area with a high density of elk. We monitored effectiveness of the fence with trackplots, animal-activated cameras, and changes in aspen stem height and density. We documented only 1 elk within the exclosure in 2 years of monitoring. Mammals that used the exclosure included beaver (Castor canadensis), black bear (Ursus americanus), bobcat (Lynx rufus), coyote (Canis latrans), deer (Odocoileus spp.), mountain lion (Puma concolor), raccoon (Procyon lotor), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), and lagomorph (Leporidae). After 1 year of protection, mean aspen stem height increased 14.5 cm more inside the exclosure than outside, but stem density in the exclosure changed little compared to outside. Our fence design effectively excluded elk and has potential for protecting a variety of resources.