Human disturbance of wildlife may cause disruption of normal feeding, resting, reproduction, or care for juveniles. Such disturbance may be particularly undesirable in federally managed wilderness areas designed to minimize human influences on natural resources. We recorded tule elk (Cervus elephus nannodes) responses (standing, walking away, running) to off-trail hikers, off-shore boats, and other natural and anthropogenic factors in Point Reyes National Seashore in northern California during 2002 to 2008. Most disturbance behaviors were related to other elk exhibiting rutting behaviors, but off-trail hikers still explained a 100% increase and off-shore boats a 15% increase in baseline disturbance behaviors by elk. However, off-trail hikers and boats did not cause elk to enter or leave the study area during the sample periods. Elk were more prone to human disturbance when herd sizes wereand, to a lesser extent, offshore boats appear to disturb natural tule elk behavior, but the physiological or population-level effects of this disturbance are unknown. Our quantitative results may help park managers minimize or mitigate human–elk interactions in wilderness areas.
Becker, Benjamin H.; Moi, Christopher M.; Maguire, Thomas J.; Atkinson, Robert; and Gates, Natalie B.
"Effects of Hikers and Boats on Tule Elk Behavior in a National Park Wilderness Area,"
Human–Wildlife Interactions: Vol. 6
, Article 16.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/hwi/vol6/iss1/16