A multi-faceted management approach on a group by group basis may be the most effective strategy for managing human-elk conflict within the North Cascades elk herd. Consideration of spatial distribution is important when developing management strategies designed to benefit or manipulate elk habitat use. We analyzed data from 23 GPS collared female elk (Cervus elaphus) in known conflict areas and adjacent upland forests to investigate spatial distribution, site fidelity, and home range overlap in northwest Washington. We identified 21 non-migratory sub-herds associated with our collared elk with discrete home ranges, year-round site fidelity and predictable core use areas. Home range areas ranged from 1.34–29.79 km2 with 50% core use areas ranging from 0.02–1.67 km2. We used seasonal median centers as indicators of site fidelity and found that all but one of the 21 groups had seasonal and total median centers < 3 km apart within their 95% home ranges. Home ranges showed minimal overlap between groups with Utilization Distribution Overlap Index values of zero or < 1 for 20 of the 21 groups. Groups that did overlap or had adjacent range boundaries showed incursion tracks suggesting that attempts were made to access occupied habitat. While the herd continues to recover, we recommend managing elk in conflict zones at the sub-herd level using a combination of techniques to manipulate behavior, block resource access, and control group size with the overall goal of influencing spatial distribution without removing elk from the landscape altogether.
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Vol. 92 • No. 4