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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Wildlife and Fisheries Science

First Advisor

Gary C. Brundig

Second Advisor

Charles G. Scalet


Elk (Cervus elaphus) movements and habitat use in relation to human use patterns were studied in Custer State Park (CSP), South Dakota from June 1993 to September 1994. Twenty-four adult, radio-collared elk (14 cows and 10 bulls) were relocated by ground triangulation or visual observation from 2-5 times/week from July 1993 to September 1994 resulting in 3,145 telemetry relocations. Human use patters (i.e., road use, hunter activity, horse and hiking trail use, and CSP Resort Company activities) were also intensively monitored throughout the same period using surveys, traffic counters, trail registrations, and infrared trail counters. Elk in CSP are segregated into five relatively discrete cow-calf sub-herds and five bull sub-herds. Annual home ranges of these herds overlapped a mean of 18% (Range = 9-29%, SE = 3.2, n = 5) for cows and 27% (Range = 11-42%, SE = 5.8, n = 6) for bulls. Home range sizes of CSP elk varied with method of analysis, season, and sex. Mean 95% harmonic mean annual home range size was 6,090 ha for bulls and 5,063 ha for cows. Mean 50% harmonic mean annual home range size was 991 for bulls and 731 ha for cows. Harmonic mean 95% home range size between bulls and cows differed annually and in fall (P <0.05). Seasonal home range sizes differed for bulls between fall and winter (P <0.05), fall and summer (P<0.05), spring and winter (P<0.05), and spring and summer (P<0.05). Seasonal home range size for cows differed between fall and winter (P<0.05), fall and spring (P<0.05), and fall and summer (P < 0.05). Elk in CSP are non-migratory. IN winter 1993-1994, a seasonal shift occurred by elk in the sub-herd north of route 16A to the NE section of CSP. Movement across park boundaries by radio-collared elk was infrequent and minimal throughout all seasons except in the SE corner of CSP in summer. Annual and seasonal macrohabitat use patterns of CSP elk exhibited high proportional use of meadow/range and fire killed habitats. Use of these habitats was greatest in winter and least in summer. Elk exhibited increased use of pine stands in summer that may be related to thermal constraints and human disturbance. Summer diurnal microsite use was dominated by greater (P < 0.05) use of high overstory canopy closure, gentle (mean – 12%) north to northwest facing slopes, and high stem densities of small dbh trees (basal area = 11.7 m2/ha). Selected sites had a higher proportion of litter (P < 0.05). Human disturbance and thermoregulatory factors probably influenced CSP elk summer diurnal microsite use.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Elk -- Seasonal distribution -- South Dakota -- Custer State Park
Elk -- Habitat -- South Dakota -- Custer State Park
Human-animal relationships


Includes bibliographical references (page 154-166)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright © 1995 Joshua J. Millspaugh. All rights reserved.