U.S. Department of Agriculture: Forest Service -- National Agroforestry Center


Date of this Version



Published in THE PRAIRIE NATURALIST 37(3): September 2005 Published by the North Dakota Natural Science Society.


Understanding the movement and dispersion patterns of elk (Cervus elaphus) on public lands and the underlying factors that affect each will facilitate elk management and help resolve conflicts between management that benefit elk and other uses of land resources. Consequently, there is a need to identify and examine the movement and dispersion patterns of elk in the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming. Our study quantified seasonal movements, determined home ranges of female elk in two areas of the Black Hills, and examined underlying factors associated with each. Elk in the northern area did not demonstrate seasonal migration patterns. Rather, winter ranges in the northern area were contained mostly within the boundaries of the summer range. Elk in the southern area exhibited a north-south migration pattern that coincided with seasonal patterns of snowfall. These elk migrated to winter range in late November and returned to summer range in late April. Home ranges of elk in the southern area were larger (P < 0.01) than home ranges in the northern area. Landscape characteristics with marginally-significant correlations to elk home range area included road density (P = 0.10), and forage:cover ratio (P = 0.08); density of primary and secondary roads and average slope were significantly correlated with elk home range area (P < 0.01). Managers can use this information to develop strategies that meet population goals and reduce conflicts between management for elk and with other resources.