UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Winter habitat selection and use of clearcuts by elk in the White River drainage of southeastern British Columbia Churchill, Brian Phillip


This study of elk winter habitat selection was conducted from June 1975 to May 1977. Surveys were conducted from November to April to observe elk use of habitat, patterns of use within clearcuts, and elk reaction to human activities and vehicle traffic. Programmes of habitat mapping, vegetation description and pellet group counts were conducted during the rest of the study period. The two winters of the study were mild. Snow depths never exceeded 45 cm, the depth hypothesized to initiate elk movement to areas of lower snowdepth. During these mild snow conditions elk selected clearcuts for feeding but utilized forested habitats for resting and escape cover. Subsequent studies in the same area (McLellan 1978) showed contrasting avoidance of clearcuts for two months during deep snow conditions where snowdepths exceeded 50 cm. Within clearcuts elk were observed to select moderate slopes further than 200 m from active roads for feeding and resting. Feeding activities within clearcuts showed selection for ridges, grass/forb vegetation and burned areas. Elk showed varying responses to slash accumulations during feeding activity. Elk selected the largest clearcut site and no preference for areas near edge of clearcuts was shown. Elk showed a strong avoidance reaction to human activity and vehicle traffic, fleeing to forest cover when disturbed. Recommendations for forest management are included.

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