Friday, 30 November 2012

Human Disturbances Keep Elk On High Alert


ScienceDaily (Nov. 28, 2012) — University of Alberta researchers discovered that elk are more frequently and more easily disturbed by humans such as ATV drivers than by their natural predators like bears and wolves.

The U of A researchers, led by biologist Simone Ciuti, spent 12 months in southwestern Alberta. The study involved elk herds made up of females and their offspring. The researchers observed the animals' reactions to different rates of human disturbances in the form of traffic on nearby roads and off-road, all-terrain vehicles.

The elk in the study were found on a variety of land types -- public, private and inside Waterton National Park.

The research data showed that starting with a rate of just one vehicle passing by an elk herd every two hours, the animals became disturbed and more vigilant. In this state the elk consume less food, which can affect their health and possibly their calving success.

The researchers found that the highest level of disturbance happened on public lands where the effect of hunting and ATV use was cumulative.

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