Year of Publication

2008

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type

Thesis

College

Agriculture

Department

Forestry

First Advisor

Dr. John J. Cox

Second Advisor

Dr. Michael J. Lacki

Abstract

Elk (Cervus elaphus) in eastern Kentucky appear to have increased in number since reintroduction in 1997, but rugged landscapes and cryptic elk behavior have precluded use of typical population survey methods to accurately estimate population size. In December 2006, I used forward-looking infrared radiography (FLIR) to survey the elk population in eastern Kentucky. Elk locations identified by FLIR were used to create a landscape based model to estimate the density distribution of elk within a 7,088 km2 core area of the elk restoration zone. FLIR detected 76% of elk groups of < 10 individuals and 100% of elk groups of ≥ 10 individuals. The density of elk was positively associated with the amount of herbaceous area, herbaceous edge, herbaceous area weighted mean patch fractal dimensions, proximity to release sites, the number of elk released at each site and urban core area index, and negatively associated with road density. My model estimated the elk population at 7,001 (SE = 772, 95% CI = 5,488- 8,514) individuals within the core area, 53% of which were < 10 km from release sites. The predicted elk distribution pattern and abundance estimate derived from this model will be important for wildlife managers in successfully managing the Kentucky elk population.

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