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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Boise, Idaho » Northwest Watershed Research Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #233034

Title: Velocity of Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus nelsonii) grazing a Northeast Oregon pasture

item Clark, Pat
item Ganskopp, David

Submitted to: Society for Range Management Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/3/2008
Publication Date: 2/8/2009
Citation: Woodside, G.J., Clark, P., Ganskopp, D.C., Vavra, M., Dick, B.L., Wilkinson, M.G., Johnson, D.E. 2009. Velocity of Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus nelsonii) grazing a Northeast Oregon pasture. Society for Range Management Meeting Abstracts.

Interpretive Summary: Evaluations of range animal behavior and its relation to resource impact have been severely limited by inadequate field methods and out-dated technology. We developed and evaluated GPS tracking systems of advanced technology for monitoring the spatial and temporal aspects of Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus nelsonii) behavior while they occupied dry meadow and forested lands on northeastern Oregon. GPS location data collected at 1-second intervals for two herds of cow elk over several week-long trials indicated bedding, foraging and traveling behaviors could be accurately and continuously monitored with the new technology. This technology can be utilized on all moderate or large wild or domestic animals thus providing researchers, natural resource managers, and livestock producers with serviceable tools for evaluating relationship between animal distribution and activity patterns and consequent impacts on critical natural resources.

Technical Abstract: The use of global positioning systems (GPS) collars is becoming routine in scientific studies of animal activities on landscapes. Typically ecologists are interested in ecological site use, critical habitat, dispersal, and potential environmental impacts of overuse on rangelands and forests. GPS receivers record time, longitude, latitude, and elevation. They also record velocity and bearing. We hypothesize that high frequency records of velocity gathered by a GPS can be used to infer animal behavior such as grazing, resting, and walking with intent and/or flight. Our study compared graphs of velocities collected at one second intervals on Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus nelsonii) grazing on northeastern Oregon pastures consisting of both dry meadows and forested lands. Two herds of five elk were fitted with GPS collars that recorded one second data over a period of 6.25 days. Three trials were conducted during June and July 2008. During each trial animals were observed and behavior recorded on time charts. We tallied a total of 100 hours of observation by humans. Standard velocity graphs (velocity vs. time) were generated for observed animals showing: bedded, standing, grooming, foraging, walking, fleeing, and drinking. Bedded, standing, and grooming are represented by periods of no velocity. Foraging typically has a stop-and-go pattern with low velocity (approximately 1 m/s). Walking is represented by consistent movement for >15 seconds with a velocity from 2.5 m/s to 5 m/s. Flight speeds are at speeds of 6m/s or greater. We found that velocity analysis has limitations but gives insight to behavior.