Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




The current population of Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) in the northern badlands of North Dakota originated from a accidental release in 1977. Efforts to manage the elk population in the northern badlands have been hindered for a number of reasons 1) the census data from fixed-wing aircraft does not adequately determine population sizes in forested areas with low numbers of individuals and herds, 2) habitat use and seasonal home range of elk in this region have not been identified.

The objectives of this study were to determine for the northern badlands elk herd: 1) the movement patterns and seasonal home range, 2) habitat use versus availability for cow elk, 3) ratios of adult bull:cow, yearling bull:cow and calf:cow which will provide information on the population structure of the herd, 4) annual reproductive success of radio-collared cows, and 5) summer food habits.

In march of 1992, 10 elk were darted from a helicopter and equipped with radio collars. Elk were tracked on the ground 2-3 days per week from May-November of 1992 and 1993.

The telemetry data revealed 4 distinct herd segments. Within these distinct herd segments elk exhibited a high degree of home range fidelity with seasonal movements between summer and fall ranges. The Killdeer Mountain elk used Birch/Aspen timber on the south mountain and shifted to Oak/Ash and Birch/Aspen timber on the north mountain in the fall. Elk in the badlands region used Oak/Ash timber most of the summer with a shift in the fall to cottonwoods along the river bottom, agriculture and Oak/Ash timber. Radio collared elk calved annually during the study with an average calf:cow ratio of 0.78.