With funding assistance from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, elk research by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) continues in the Sapphire Mountains south of Missoula in the north Bitterroot Valley. In collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and private landowners, FWP recently caught and collared 23 elk (16 bulls and 7 cows). Data gathered from the collars will show where elk move, how they distribute across public and private lands, and help researchers better understand how hunters access and where and how people travel on USFS lands make an impact.
This marks the second phase of the study, also funded in part by RMEF. From 2014-2016, crews placed collars on bull and cow elk in the north Sapphires. Since then, the Bitterroot National Forest implemented a new travel management plan that included some changes aimed at helping to increase elk security on forestlands. The hope was that fewer elk would move to private lands during the hunting season, and now the goal is to determine if the changes made an impact.
In addition, hunter access since changed and became more restrictive in some spots where land ownership is different than just a few years ago. Researchers will also look at how that affects where elk are found.
(Photo source: Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks)