Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Wildlife Biology

Department or School/College

College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

Mark Hebblewhite

Commitee Members

Kerry Foresman, Mike Thompson, Paul Krausman


behavior, Elk, first passage time, habituation, movement, resource selection functions


University of Montana


Elk (Cervus elaphus) are increasing in fragmented landscapes that result from exurban human development throughout western North America. This problem is increasing human-wildlife conflicts and represents a significant new challenge to wildlife managers. Elk hunting must be intensively managed, if allowed at all, to reduce public relations problems. For example, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks has focused three hunts on a rapidly growing (~11% annually) elk herd in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) of Missoula, Montana, USA. Their goals were to reduce population growth rate, crop depredation, and habituation to humans. However, little was known about the indirect effect hunting has on anti-predator behavior, movement, resource selection, and human-elk conflicts. We first investigated the indirect effects of hunting on elk using an extensive comparison of elk anti-predator behavior across four human predation risk levels in western Montana. We collected 361behavioral observations across this predation risk gradient from October 2008 to March 2009. Vigilance was highest in highest predation risk areas and lowest in lowest risk areas. Vigilance and movement attenuated with the removal of human predation risk within 3-5 weeks under intermediate human predation risk in Missoula, Montana. I then used an intensive investigation of elk outfitted with global positioning system (GPS) collars in the WUI of Missoula to test the indirect effects of hunting on elk. We used data from nine GPS collared adult female elk during three hunting seasons with increasing hunting pressure (2007-2009) to test relationships between movement rates measured by first passage time (FPT) and resource selection. FPT decreased annually, by season type, and by hunting mode (archery vs rifle), and was negatively correlated with hunter predation risk. Elk slowed down ~750 meters from and selected for areas ~1200 meters from houses and trails, suggesting habituation to humans contributed to WUI human-wildlife conflict. These results support the risk allocation hypothesis that elk modify behavior in relation to temporal and spatial variation in human predation risk, and provide some of the first insights as to the indirect effects of hunting on elk in the WUI.



© Copyright 2010 Shawn M. Cleveland