Improve the Health and Conditions of Roosevelt Elk and Habitat.
ABOUT THE ROOSEVELT ELK
Roosevelt Elk is named after President Theodore Roosevelt and is as iconic as its namesake. It is the largest of the three elk subspecies in America: Tule and Rocky Mountain. Roosevelt elk can be found on the western slopes of the Coastal and Cascade ranges in Oregon, Washington, and northern California. As a migratory species, they are in the mountains during the summer and move to lower levels for winter.
ROOSEVELT ELK ARE VITAL TO THE ECOSYSTEM
Roosevelt elk are vital to the ecosystem as they clear the understory for other species. Gray wolves and mountain lions are their natural predators. Habitat fragmentation, poor forest management, wildlife, and invasive species has reduced the availability of quality and quantity of forage.
This reduction has harmed the fertility rates of the Roosevelt elk. These results impact the ecosystem and other wildlife species. In addition, this imbalance also affects the recreation and hunting communities.
More than 70,000 elk hunters in Oregon annually partake of this experience and, combined with other recreationists, annually contribute billions of dollars to the state’s economy (Fishing, Hunting, Wildlife Viewing, and Shellfishing in Oregon 2008 State and County Expenditure Estimates, 2009). This statistic does not include the non-resident hunters and their economic contribution to Oregon.
Together these projects address the ability to improve the health of the Roosevelt elk and the quality of their range. The data researched and collected are pivotal to assess the health of the population, which is necessary for providing hunting opportunities.
WHAT IS AT RISK?
Lack of immediate action in obtaining this data and improving the health of the habitat and quality of the Roosevelt elk’s range elk would affect Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s ability to make sound management decisions, which could lead to loss of hunting opportunities, loss of revenue to the state, declines in elk populations, and a reduced ability of the ODFW to meet statutory goals and obligations.
ACTIVITIES TO ADDRESS THE RISK
Habitat Treatment of western Meadows of Cascades for Conifer encroachment.
Currently, west Cascade meadows are heavily encroached by young conifers, predominately ponderosa pine, and other non-native grass species, that are continuing to grow in the open areas and reducing the size and functions of the meadow. Over time, this will result in a habitat shift to forest if left untreated. The ideal habitat of elk are open forest and meadows. They can graze on plants and small trees, and following a burn or thinning, provides more forage from the new budding plants. The native shrubs that are present are decadent and lower quality forage for deer and elk. The treatment of the vegetation impacts the range used by the elk yearlong, as a migration corridor and transition range.
- ISSUE: In the West Cascades, it is estimated that 99% of grasslands have been lost due to fire suppression, development, and other factors. Forage quantity and quality are likely a major factor for less than optimal elk numbers in the Rogue area of Oregon, especially on public land. Restoring this meadow with others will provide more and higher quality green forage for elk (and other wildlife species). The poor management of the timber and understand has increased the fuel within and adjacent to the meadow, which also increases the fuel load and risk of wildfire to the adjacent stands. The current closed canopy negatively effects the habitat of the Roosevelt elk
- OBJECTIVE: The objective is to enhance the existing meadows; and improve both quality and quantity of habitat and forage for elk, which would benefit several other wildlife species utilizing this area: black-tailed deer, wild turkey, grouse species, small mammals (squirrel and lagomorph species), black bear, neotropical migratory birds, great gray owl, and a suite of pollinator species (ex. mardon skipper and western bumble bee).
- LAND OWNERSHIP The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest is 100% federal land. The work would occur on ~80 acres.
- BENEFITS: Vegetation Treatments of the meadow and aspen habitat to increase forage quantity and quality estimated to benefit 150 elk, in addition will improve habitat for benefit great gray owls, neo-tropical birds, small mammals, and special status pollinator species including mardon skipper.
Meadow Restoration of Central Coast Siuslaw for Nutrition.
This meadow landscape provides diversity of the habitat range for the Roosevelt elk, which is located to the west of the Cascades Meadows. The meadows are important component for elk life cycle, including nutrition in the form of dietary digestible energy which is especially important for lactating female elk. To keep these meadows opens requires annual or biannual maintenance to abate encroachment by invasive weeds. This project will aid in the removal of such weeds and in the conversion of jeopardized meadows into more resilient systems comprised of a mix of native vegetation. Other species in addition to elk to benefit from meadow enhancement are black-tailed deer, bald eagle, Aleutian Canada goose, western pond turtle, quail, ruffed grouse and several species of bat.
- ISSUE: Meadows are an important habitat type for Roosevelt Elk and provide forage that is increasingly lacking across the landscape, because one of the largest challenges are weed and conifer encroachment. And the functionality of openings are limited due to invasive grasses and weeds. With federal priorities of the National Forest and other land management agencies shifted to management and creation of late successional forest, the meadow and early seral habitats are becoming increasingly scarce, which is the necessary forage for elk, deer and other species.
- OBJECTIVE: The objectives are to continue to maintain sensitive meadows to prevent invasive weeds from taking over and to provide for fresh fall forage for elk
- LAND OWNERSHIP: 100% Federal lands.
- BENEFITS: Although Roosevelt elk are present in these areas, the restoration and regular maintenance can increase the use of the meadows and provide more quantity and better-quality habitat, which would help health of the population.
Habitat Use, Survival and Reproductive Parameters.
Although numerous studies on effects on calf recruitment, there’s a lack of research on how habitat quality influences maternal body condition of Roosevelt elk, which is critical in understanding pregnancy rates and survival of cow and calf elk. . A driving factor of pregnancy rates and thus calf recruitment is the cow elk’s body condition, which is determined by access to quality forage. To achieve a healthy and sustainable population warrants understanding the quality and quantity of forage available to elk in Western Oregon. A driving force of ungulate population dynamics is calf recruitment and female survival (Gaillard at al., 2000)
- ISSUE: Managers have the challenge of maintaining healthy stocks of elk, their habitat, and providing a recreational resource while limiting conflicts on private land. Very little study of Roosevelt elk (the coastal subspecies) has been conducted. However, Roosevelt elk are expected to have different reproductive rates and success compared to the other subspecies of elk in Oregon, Rocky Mountain elk. Furthermore, Roosevelt elk in this study inhabit the Oregon Coast range, which has very different habitat characteristics than other parts of the small native range of Roosevelt elk. Management of this elk subspecies, which is hunted, requires accurate estimates of calf survival and recruitment in order to set appropriate goals for harvest. A driving factor of pregnancy rates and thus calf recruitment is the cow elk’s body condition, which is determined by access to quality forage (Cook et al., 2013; Proffitt et al., 2016).
- OBJECTIVE: Since ODFW captured elk cows and calves between 2020 and 2022 to measure pregnancy rates, body condition and survival, now ODFW seeks to investigate whether differences in body condition, pregnancy rates, and calf survival are associated with difference in elk access to quality forage and habitat. A better understanding of the quality of that habitat is essential to understand how access to resources effects calf recruitment
- LAND OWNERSHIP: Federal 13% State 5% Local gvt .05% Private 82% Tribal .1%
- BENEFITS: This study will serve as a template to inform ODFW on management Roosevelt elk throughout other Coast Range habitats in Oregon, because it will address a key knowledge gap regarding the effect of forage, range and habitat characteristics on ungulate populations. This data is crucial in developing appropriate management strategies in order to obtain elk populations at the desired levels.