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Keywords:

  • Cervus elaphus;
  • dispersal;
  • elk;
  • movements;
  • population spread;
  • reintroduction;
  • restoration;
  • translocation

Monitoring the distribution and movements of a species following reintroduction can aid resource managers in assessing release-site fidelity, rates of spread, initial project success, and feasibility of (or need for) future releases. We used radio-telemetry to monitor an entire founding population of 70 elk (Cervus elaphus) during 16 months following their reintroduction to eastern Ontario, Canada. At the end of the study, elk were widely scattered over a 27,000 km2 area. Dispersal distances ranged from 2 to 142 km; 50% of animals moved >40 km from the release site. Dispersal distances differed by time periods and age but not sex. Calves dispersed significantly shorter distances than adults and many mature elk were isolated during the rut. In contrast to a random distribution model, movements had a strongly southwestern directional bias, perhaps owing to prevailing winds from the same direction. Mortality during the study period was 27%; the primary causes of known mortalities were emaciation, collision with automobiles, and illegal shooting. During the first 11 / 2 years, lack of release-site fidelity and high dispersal coupled with animal-human conflicts and mortalities likely contributed to an initial lag in population growth. Resource managers planning animal reintroductions should consider using methodologies that enhance site fidelity following release.