Graduation Year

2021

Graduation Month

May

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

School or Department

Wildlife Biology

Major

Wildlife Biology – Terrestrial

Faculty Mentor

Chad Bishop

Faculty Mentor Department

Wildlife Biology

Keywords

camera trapping, Cervus canadensis, habitat fragmentation, fences, migration

Subject Categories

Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology

Abstract

Large scale fences pose a threat to ungulate movement on the Blackfeet Reservation. Since the beginning of the last decade, the Blackfeet Reservation has experienced intense habitat fragmentation in the northern regions of the reservation, particularly in prime elk habitat that is believed to be along a migration corridor. One source of fragmentation has been the erection of a semi-permeable fence associated with a large bison ranch. The purpose of this study was to preliminarily assess potential interactions of elk (Cervus canadensis) and the semi-permeable bison fence as a precursor for further study. I worked in collaboration with the Blackfeet Fish and Game Department and the University of Montana, who will be initiating a larger elk migration study in the coming year. A small network of six trail cameras was deployed along the bison fence on an adjacent landowner’s property at the eastern most edge of the bison ranch for a total of two months (January to March). Using information from the landowner, four locations were identified that were believed to be crossing points or pinch points for camera placement. Based on an initial analysis of trail camera images, there were no recorded interactions between elk and the fence: however, there was an observed interaction between the fence, white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and many coyotes (Canis latrans). Elk frequently move in large groups and are not evenly distributed across a landscape. My findings suggest a larger camera array than initially anticipated will be needed to adequately assess elk-fence interactions. I also recommend that camera settings be adjusted strategically to allow for the best possible documentation of behavior.

Honors College Research Project

Yes

GLI Capstone Project

no

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