Date of this Version
In recent years, elk have begun recolonizing areas east of the Rocky Mountains that are largely agroforested ecosystems composed of privately owned land where management of elk is an increasing concern due to crop and forage depredation and interspecific disease transmission. We used a Geographic Information System, elk use locations (n = 5013), random locations (n = 25,065), discrete-choice models, and information-theoretic methods to test hypotheses about elk resource selection in an agro-forested landscape located in the Pine Ridge region of northwestern Nebraska, USA. Our objectives were to determine landscape characteristics selected by female elk and identify publicly owned land within the Pine Ridge for potential redistribution of elk. We found distance to edge of cover influenced selection of resources by female elk most and that in areas with light hunting pressure, such as ours, this selection was not driven by an avoidance of roads. Female elk selected resources positioned near ponderosa pine cover types during all seasons, exhibited a slight avoidance of roads during spring and fall, selected areas with increased slope during winter and spring, and selected north- and east-facing aspects over flat areas and areas with south-facing slopes during winter months. We used our models to identified a potential elk redistribution area that had a higher proportion of landcover with characteristics selected by elk in our study area than the current herd areas and more landcover that was publicly owned. With appropriate management plans, we believe elk within the Potential Elk Redistribution Area would predominantly occupy publicly owned land, which would help minimize crop and forage damage on privately owned lands.