North Sapphire Elk Foraging and Habitat Use

MS Thesis, Kristin Barker

In collaboration with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the North Sapphire Elk Research Project, we are conducting a study on the Sapphire elk herd in the northern Bitterroot Valley of Montana. The herd provides important hunting and recreational opportunities, but changing elk distributions in recent years have become a potential source of concern for local landowners and sportsmen. This research is designed to determine what proportion of the herd is currently migratory, whether elk that do and do not migrate have access to the same nutrition during summer, and which vegetative communities provide the highest quality forage for elk. Results will help managers better understand current elk distributions, predict future changes in elk behavior, and identify potential strategies to manipulate behaviors to meet management objectives.