A new study shows elk, unlike some other wildlife species, don’t always follow the same migration track year after year. It depends on what they see and what’s available to eat.
Elk wearing GPS collars in Wyoming employed what’s referred to as a ‘win, stay, lose-switch’ strategy. In other words, if they found good, green forage in the spring and summer, they were more likely to return the following year. However, if they did not like what they found and had a sub-par experience, they went elsewhere.
Mule deer and moose were more predictable with a greater tendency to stick to their usual routes.
Given the elk’s tendency to change things up, researchers determined the importance of conserving landscapes in ways to ensure animals retain access to large areas.
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation did not provide funding directly to this study but did help support some of the data collection that went into it through the Wyoming Migration Initiative and/or previous studies by other researchers.
(Photo sources: Wyoming Migration Initiative)