Postrelease Dispersal of Reintroduced Elk (Cervus elaphus) in Ontario, Canada


5 Mark Ryckman, email


We studied 2 years of postrelease telemetry data of elk (Cervus elaphus) translocated to their historic range limit in Ontario, Canada and sought to determine if postrelease movements were related to behavior, demography of released animals, or site–specific attributes such as length of holding period. During 1998–2004 we radio-tracked 341 elk in 10 release groups via ground and aerial telemetry and monitored movement patterns relative to gender, age, and pre-release holding period (4–112 days). We found that elk that were held for short periods prior to release (4–11 days) moved longer distances than those subject to extended conditioning (17–112 days), suggesting that an extended conditioning period is beneficial from the standpoint of promoting philopatry. When all elk were pooled by sex and age class, male calves remained in closer proximity (8.0 ± 13.2 km) to release sites than adult females (19.1 ± 20.6 km), adult males (19.7 ± 15.1 km), and female calves (14.4 ± 20.4 km). Most calves dispersed in a southeasterly direction whereas adults tended to travel southwest. Our results reveal that elk movement characteristics are influenced by factors such as release protocol and group demographics; these findings provide further insight regarding appropriate release methods for restoring natural populations near their historical range limit.