Identification of Diet Supplements for Elk Management

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Journal/Book Title/Conference

USU Student Showcase

Publication Date


Faculty Mentor

Juan Villalba


In the Intermountain West elk often occur in great numbers and forage in overused areas potentially threatening other wildlife such as deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). One major resource issue in Utah is that many shrub communities are in late successional plant community stages, dominated by mature even-aged shrubs with little recruitment of young shrubs. Yet, young, vigorous, shrub-dominated communities are essential for wildlife habitat. We are therefore proposing to use elk as a tool to convert late successional plant communities into vigorous communities. When elk diets are supplemented with food high in protein or energy they can consume old, decadent sagebrush while still receiving sufficient nutrition. We will identify a supplement that can be used to encourage elk to forage in unproductive sagebrush areas. This will stimulate production and release small sagebrush from competition, thus improving habitat for mule deer and sage-grouse. Our approach is in contrast to when elk are fed a complete diet replacement and they no longer need to move around the landscape to seek additional forage. This approach can lead to overuse and degradation of feeding area. Although diet supplementation is a well-established tool for managing livestock distributions, it has not yet been used for wild ungulates such as elk. The first step in this process is to identify which supplements and feeders (that dispense the supplement) are most likely to attract elk. I am proposing to compare the effectiveness of different feeders and supplements at attracting elk at Hardware Ranch, Cache County, Utah.

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