Landscape Ecology

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 257–271 | Cite as

Factors influencing female home range sizes in elk (Cervus elaphus) in North American landscapes

  • Dean P. Anderson
  • James D. Forester
  • Monica G. Turner
  • Jacqui L. Frair
  • Evelyn H. Merrill
  • Daniel Fortin
  • Julie S. Mao
  • Mark S. Boyce
Research article


Home range size is a result of individual movements and the spatial distribution of a population. While body size, sex, and age are known to influence the area over which an animal ranges, it remains uncertain how landscape heterogeneity influences home range size. We examined elk (Cervus elaphus) seasonal home range sizes in relation to the quantity and spatial heterogeneity of forage biomass, forest cover, topography, snow–water equivalents, and landscape structure in three study landscapes: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA; eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies, Alberta; and northern Wisconsin, USA. We used a 95% fixed kernel estimator to measure the home range size and location of all elk. To identify the scales at which important factors influenced home range sizes, we quantified environmental variables within the estimated home range polygon and within concentric circles with radii of 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, and 5000 m from the home range center. Results indicate that there was an inverse relationship between forage biomass and summer and winter home range sizes in Alberta and Wisconsin, however the relationship was positive in Yellowstone. The size of summer and winter home ranges was positively related to percent forest cover; however this relationship was significant only when forest cover was quantified within the home range polygon or radii that were greater than or equal to 3000 m. Winter home ranges also had a positive relationship with snow–water equivalents. The predictive strength of summer home range models was greatest when landscape variables were quantified within the concentric circles with a radius of 3000 m or more, whereas the predictive strength of the winter models was greatest within the estimated home range polygon. Results suggest that elk ranging patterns reflected complex trade-offs that affect foraging, group dynamics, movement energetics, predation avoidance and thermal regulation. The multi-scale analysis indicates that elk based home ranging decisions on an area equal to their home range, but areas outside of the estimated home range were also important.


Cross validation Forage Heterogeneity Home range kernel Scale Snow–water equivalent 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Albon, T.F., Langvatn, R. 1992Plant phenology and the benefits of migration in a temperate ungulateOikos65502513Google Scholar
  2. Altendorf, K.B., Laundré, J.W., López Gonzáles, C.A.L., Brown, J.S. 2001Assessing effects of predation risk on foraging behavior of mule deerJournal of Mammalogy82430439CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anderson D.P., Turner M.G., Forester J.D., Zhu J., Boyce M.S., Beyer H. and Stowell L. in press. Scale-dependent summer resource selection by reintroduced elk in Wisconsin USA. Journal of Wildlife ManagementGoogle Scholar
  4. Aycrigg, J.L., Porter, W.F. 1997Sociospatial dynamics of white-tailed deer in the Central Adirondack Mountains, New YorkJournal of Mammalogy78468482Google Scholar
  5. Beyer H.L. 2004. Hawth’s Analysis Tools for ArcGIS. Version 2. Scholar
  6. Bowyer, R.T. 1981Activity, movementand distribution of Roosevelt elk during rutJournal of Mammalogy62574582Google Scholar
  7. Bowyer, R.T., Kie, J.G., Van Ballenberghe, V. 1998Habitat selection by neonatal black-tailed deer: climateforageor risk of predation?Journal of Mammalogy79415425Google Scholar
  8. Burnham, K.P., Anderson, D.R. 2002Model Selection and InferenceSpringer-VerlagNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  9. Cain, M.L. 1985Random search by herbivorous insects: a simulation modelEcology66876888Google Scholar
  10. Carr, A.P., Rodgers, A.R. 1998HRE: The Home Range Extension for ArcViewOntario Ministry of Natural ResourcesThunder BayGoogle Scholar
  11. Clayton, M.K., Hudelson, B.D. 1995Confidence intervals for autocorrelations based on cyclic samplesJournal of the American Statistical Association90753757MathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  12. Cook, J.G., Irwin, L.L., Bryant, L.D., Riggs, R.A., Thomas, J.W. 1998Relations of forest cover and condition of elk: a test of the thermal cover hypothesis in summer and winterWildlife Monographs141161Google Scholar
  13. Cook, R.C., Cook, J.G., Mech, L.D. 2004Nutritional condition of northern Yellowstone elkJournal of Mammalogy85714722CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Crawford, H.S. 1984Habitat ManagementHalls, L.K. eds. White-Tailed Deer Ecology and ManagementStackpole BooksHarrisburg629646Google Scholar
  15. Demarchi, M.W., Bunnell, F.L. 1993Estimating forest canopy effects on summer thermal cover for Cervidae (deer family)Canandian Journal of Forestry Research2324192426Google Scholar
  16. Despain, D.G. 1990Yellowstone Vegetation: Consequences of Environment and History in a Natural SettingRobert Rinehart PublishersBolderCOGoogle Scholar
  17. Dirks R.A. and Martner B.E. 1982. The Climate of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. U.S. Department of Interior/National Park Service. Occasional PaperNumber 6.Google Scholar
  18. Dixon, G.D. 1997Cumulative Effects Modeling for Grizzly Bears in the Greater Yellowstone EcosystemMontana State UniversityBozemanGoogle Scholar
  19. Environment Canada, 2004. Canadian Climate Normals or Averages 1971–2000. climate_normals. Environment Canada.Google Scholar
  20. ESRI2001ArcGIS Version 8.1Environmental Systems Research InstituteRedlandsGoogle Scholar
  21. Ford, R.G. 1983Home range in a patchy environment: optimal foraging predictionsAmerican Zoologist23315326Google Scholar
  22. Fortin D., Beyer H., Boyce M.S., Smith D.W., Duchesne T. and Mao J.S. in press. Wolves influence elk movements: behavior shapes a trophic cascade in Yellowstone National Park. Ecology.Google Scholar
  23. Frair J.L., Merrill E.H., Beyer H.L., Morales J.M., Visscher D.R. and Fortin D. 2005. Scales of movement by elk (Cervus elaphus) in response to heterogeneity in forage resources and predation risk. Landscape Ecology.Google Scholar
  24. Fryxell, J.M., Lundberg, P. 1997Individual Behavior and Community DynamicsChapman & HallNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  25. Goodison, B.E., Ferguson, H.L., McKay, G.A. 1981Measurement and data analysisGray, D.M.Male, D.H. eds. Handbood of Snow: Principles, Processes, Management and UsePergamonNew York191274Google Scholar
  26. Grace, J., Easterbee, N. 1979The natural shelter for red deer (Cervus elaphus) in a Scottish glenJournal of Applied Ecology163748Google Scholar
  27. Hobbs, N.T. 1989Linking energy balance to survival in mule deer:development and test of a simulation modelWildlife Monographs101139Google Scholar
  28. Hooge, P.N., Eichenlaub, B., Hooge, E.R., Soloman, E.K. 2002The Animal Movement ProgramAlaska Biological Science CenterU.S. Geological SurveyAnchorageGoogle Scholar
  29. Huot, J. 1974Winter habitat of white-tailed deer at the Thirty-one Mile LakeQuébecCanadian Field Naturalist88293301Google Scholar
  30. Jones, P.F., Hudson, R.J. 2002Winter habitat selection at three spatial scales by American Elk, Cervus elaphusin west-central AlbertaCanadian Field Naturalist116183191Google Scholar
  31. Kalunzny, S.P., Vega, S.C., Cardoso, T.P., Shelly, A.A. 1998S+ Spatial Stats: User’s Manual for Windows and UnixSpringer-VerlagNew York327Google Scholar
  32. Kareiva, P. 1983Influence of vegetation texture on herbivore populations: resource concentrations and herbivore movementsDenno, R.F.McClure, M. eds. Variable Plants and Herbivores Natural and Managed SystemsAcademic PressNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  33. Kareiva, P., Wennergren, U. 1995Connecting landscape patterns to ecosystem and population processesNature373299302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kie, J.G. 1999Optimal foraging and risk of predation: effects on behavior and social structure in ungulatesJournal of Mammalogy8011141129Google Scholar
  35. Kie J.G., Ager A.A. and Bowyer R.T. 2005. Landscape-level movements of North American elk (Cervus elaphus): effects of habitat patch structure and topography. Landscape Ecology.Google Scholar
  36. Kie, J.G., Bowyer, R.T., Nicholson, M.C., Boroski, B.B., Loft, E.R. 2002Landscape heterogeneity at different scales: effects on spatial distribution of mule deerEcology83530544Google Scholar
  37. Langvatn, R., Hanley, T.A. 1993Feeding patch choice by red deer in relation to foraging efficiencyOecologia95164170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Larson, T.J., Rongstad, O.J., Terbilcox, F.W. 1978Movement and habitat use of white-tailed deer in southcentral WisconsinJournal of Wildlife Management42113117Google Scholar
  39. Lesage, L., Crête, M., Huot, J., Dumont, A., Ouellet, J.-P. 2000Seasonal home range size and philopatry in two northern white-tailed deer populationsCanadian Journal of Zoology7819301940CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Loft, E.R., Kie, J.G., Menke, J.W. 1993Grazing in the Sierra Nevada: home range and space use patterns of mule deer as influenced by cattleCalifornia Fish and Game79145166Google Scholar
  41. Loomis, J.B., Loft, E.R., Updike, D.R., Kie, J.G. 1991Cattle-deer interactions in the Sierra Nevada: a bioeconomic approachJournal of Range Management44395399Google Scholar
  42. Mao, J.S. 2003Habitat Selection by Elk Before and After Wolf Reintroduction in Yellowstone National Park, WyomingUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonM.S. ThesisGoogle Scholar
  43. McGarigal, K., Marks, B.J. 1995Fragstats: Spatial Analysis Program for Quantifying Landscape Structure. USDA Forest Service General Technical Report PNW-GRT-351USDA Forest ServicePacific Northwest Research StationPortlandGoogle Scholar
  44. McNab, B.K. 1963Bioenergetics and the determination of home range sizeAmerican Naturalist97133140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Merrill, E.H., Boyce, M.S. 1991Summer range and elk population dynamics in Yellowstone National ParkKeiter, R.B.Boyce, M.S. eds. The Greater Yellowstone EcosystemYale UniversityNew Haven263273Google Scholar
  46. Moe, S.R., Wegge, P. 1994Spacing behaviour and habitat use of axis deer (Axis axis) in lowland NepalCanadian Journal of Zoology7217351744Google Scholar
  47. Mysterud, A. 1999Seasonal migration pattern and home range of roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) in an altudinal gradient in southern NorwayJournal of Zoology (London)247479486Google Scholar
  48. Mysterud, A., Pérez-Barbería, F.J., Gordon, I.J. 2001The effect of season, sex and feeding style on home range area versus body mass scaling in temperate ruminantsOecologia1273039CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Nams, V.O. 2000Locate II User’s GuidePacerTruroGoogle Scholar
  50. Nicholson, M.C., Bowyer, R.T., Kie, J.G. 1997Habitat selection and survival of mule deer: tradeoffs associated with migrationJournal of Mammalogy78483504Google Scholar
  51. Oehler, M.W.,Sr., Bowyer, R.T., Bleich, V.C. 2003Home ranges of female mountain sheep, Ovis canadensis nelsoni: effects of precipitation in a desert ecosystemMammalia67385401Google Scholar
  52. Oȁ9Neill, R.V., Milne, B.T., Turner, M.G., Gardner, R.H. 1988Resource utilization scales and landscape patternLandscape Ecology26369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Parker, K.L., Gillingham, M.P. 1990Estimates of critical thermal environments for mule deerJournal of Range Management437381Google Scholar
  54. Parker, K.L., Robbins, C.T., Hanley, T.A. 1984Energy expenditures for locomotion by mule deer and elkJournal of Wildlife Management42113117Google Scholar
  55. Pauley, G.R., Peek, J.M., Zager, P. 1993Predicting white-tailed deer habitat use in Northern IdahoJournal of Wildlife Management57904913Google Scholar
  56. Porter, W.P., Budaraju, S., Stewart, W.E., Ramankutty, N. 2000Calculating climate effects on birds and mammals: impacts on biodiversity, conservation, population parameters, and global community structureAmerican Zoologist40597630Google Scholar
  57. Porter, W.P., Sabo, J.L., Tracy, T.R., Reichman, O.J., Ramankutty, N. 2002Physiology on a landscape scale: plant-animal interactionsIntegrative and Comparative Biology42431453Google Scholar
  58. Relyea R.A., Lawrence R.K. and Demarais S. 2000. Home range of desert mule deer: testing the body-size and habitat productivity hypothesis. Journal of Wildlife Management 64.Google Scholar
  59. SAS Institute Inc.1999SAS OnlineDoc, Version 8SAS InstituteCary846Google Scholar
  60. Seaman, D.E., Millspaugh, J.J., Kernohan, B.J., Brundige, G.C., Raedeke, K.J., Gitzen, R.A. 1999Effects of sample size on kernel home range estimatesJournal of Wildlife Management63739747Google Scholar
  61. Senft, R.L., Coughenour, M.B., Bailey, D.W., Rittenhouse, L.R., Sala, O.E., Swift, D.M. 1987Large herbivore foraging and ecological hierarchiesBioscience37789799Google Scholar
  62. Skovlin, J.M., Zager, P., Johnson, B.K. 2002Elk habitat selection and evaluationToweill, D.E.Thomas, J.W. eds. North American Elk: Ecology and ManagementSmithsonian InstitutionWashington, D.C531557Google Scholar
  63. Smith, D.W., Peterson, R.O., Houston, D.B. 2003Yellowstone after wolvesBioscience53330340Google Scholar
  64. StataCorp.2001Stata Reference Manual, Release 7Stata PressCollege Station, Texas, USAGoogle Scholar
  65. Stewart, K.M., Bowyer, R.T., Kie, J.G., Cimon, N.J., Johnson, B.K. 2002Temporospatial distributions of elk, mule deerand cattle: resource partitioning and competitive displacementJournal of Mammalogy83229244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Sweeney, J.M., Sweeney, J.R. 1984Snow depths influencing winter movements of elkJournal of Mammalogy65524526Google Scholar
  67. Taylor, C.R., Rowntree, V.J., Caldwell, S.L. 1972Running up and down hills – some consequences of sizeScience17810961097PubMedGoogle Scholar
  68. Tufto, J., Andersen, R., Linnell, J. 1996Habitat use and ecological correlates of home range size in a small cervid: the roe deerJournal of Animal Ecology65715724Google Scholar
  69. Turchin, P. 2003Complex Population Dynamics: A Theoretical/Empirical SynthesisPrinceton University PressPrincetonGoogle Scholar
  70. Turner M.G., Tinker D.B., Romme W.H., Kashian D.M. and Litton C.M. 2004. Landscape patterns of sapling density, leaf areaand aboveground net primary production in postfire lodgepole pine forests, Yellowstone National Park (USA). Ecosystems 7: 751–775.Google Scholar
  71. Turner, M.G., Wu, Y., Romme, W.H., Wallace, L.L. 1993A landscape simulation model of winter foraging by large ungulatesEcological Modelling69163184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Turner M.G., Wu Y., Wallace L.L., Romme W.H. and Brenkert A. 1994. Simulating winter interactions among ungulates, vegetation, and fire in Northern Yellowstone Park. Ecological Applications 4.Google Scholar
  73. USDA1986Final Environmental Impact Statement: Chequamegon National Forest Land and Resource Management PlanUSDA Forest ServiceRegion 9Eastern RegionGoogle Scholar
  74. USDA2001CDS Data DictionaryUSDA Forest ServiceRegion 9Region 9, Eastern RegionGoogle Scholar
  75. White, C.A., Feller, M.C., Bayley, S. 2003Predation risk and the functional response of elk-aspen herbivoryForest Ecology and Management1817797CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. White, G.C., Garrott, R.A. 1990Analysis of Wildlife Radio-Tracking DataAcademicSan DiegoGoogle Scholar
  77. Wickstrom, M.L., Robbins, C.T., Hanley, T.A., Spalinger, D.E., Parish, S.M. 1984Food intake and foraging energetics of elk and mule deerJournal of Wildlife Management4812851301Google Scholar
  78. WiDNR1998WISCLAND Land Cover (WLCGW930)Wisconsin Department of Natural ResourcesMadisonGoogle Scholar
  79. Wilmshurst, J.F., Fryxell, J.M., Hudson, R.J. 1995Forage quality and patch choice by wapiti (Cervus elaphus)Behavioral Ecology6209217Google Scholar
  80. With, K.A., Crist, T.O. 1995Critical thresholds in species responses to landscape structureEcology7624462459Google Scholar
  81. Wockner, G., Singer, F.J., Coughenhour, M.B., Farnes, P. 2002Snow Model for Yellowstone National ParkNat. Resour. Ecol. Lab.Fort CollinsGoogle Scholar
  82. Wolff, J.O., Van Horn, T. 2003Vigilance and foraging patterns of American elk during the rut in habitats with and without predatorsCanadian Journal of Zoology81266271CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dean P. Anderson
    • 1
  • James D. Forester
    • 1
  • Monica G. Turner
    • 1
  • Jacqui L. Frair
    • 2
  • Evelyn H. Merrill
    • 2
  • Daniel Fortin
    • 3
  • Julie S. Mao
    • 2
  • Mark S. Boyce
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of AlbertaCanada
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of LavalQuebecCanada

Personalised recommendations