Elk/moose population dynamics in the Riding Mountain National Park region

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Richards, Lisa K. M.
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This study considered relative impacts of some important factors on elk (Cervus elaphus manitobensis) and moose (Alces alces) population trends in Riding Mountain National Park (RMNP). Factors included hunter success outside Park boundaries, populations of beaver (Castor canadensis), wolf (Canis lupus), snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus), and weather severity. Cross-correlation analysis was used to determine the relationship between elk and moose populations and each parameter. Graphs and correlograms were used to explore the relationships. The elk population was significantly correlated to hunter harvest (r = $-$0.4812), the beaver population (r = 0.6271), the snowshoe hare population (r = 0.5628), the winter severity index (r = 0.5998), all temperature indices (r = 0.4800-0.5481), and snow accumulation (r = 0.6047). The moose population was significantly correlated to hunter harvest (r = $-$0.4628), the beaver population (r = 0.5908), the wolf population (r = .5839), the snowshoe hare population (r = 0.5967), the minimum winter temperature index (0.412), snow accumulation (r = 0.4821), and snow density ($-$0.4756). Of the factors examined, hunter harvest and winter severity were suspected to be influencing the elk population. Both factors may be creating delays in the population response by the effects of winter mortality of calves, reduced recruitment and reduced fecundity. As well, although no significant correlation was detected, wolves may be preventing the elk population from increasing dramatically. The moose population was suspected to be influenced by hinter harvest, beaver populations and winter severity. Again, hunter harvest and winter severity may be creating time-delayed population responses. Although the wolf population was found to be significantly correlated to the moose population, no lag effect implied that the populations were acting independently of each other. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)