Elk (Cervus elaphus L.) and cattle (Bos taurus L.) co-occur on rangelands throughout western North America. Literature regarding range relations between elk and cattle, however, is contradictory, describing interspecific competition in some cases and complementary or facilitative relations in others. A better understanding of how sympatric elk and cattle behave at fine spatiotemporal scales is needed to properly allocate resources for these species. We used intensively sampled Global Positioning System(GPS) tracking data (1-sec intervals) to classify elk and cattle behavior and investigate their activity and movement strategies in the Blue Mountains of northeastern Oregon, United States, during summer and fall 2007. An ensemble classification approach was used to identify stationary, foraging, and walking behavior classes within the GPS datasets of mature beef and captive elk cows grazing in forested pastures during two randomized experiments, one in summer and the other fall. During summer, elk traveled farther per day, had larger walking budgets, exhibited more and longer walking bouts, and had higher walking velocities than beef cows. Cattle tended to emphasize intensive foraging over extensive movement and thus displayed larger foraging budgets and longer foraging bouts than elk. Site-by-species interactions, however, were detected for some foraging responses. During fall, when forage quality was limiting, elk exhibited a more foraging-centric mobility strategy while cattle emphasized an energy conservation strategy. These differing movement and energetic strategies tended to support the concept that elk and cattle occupy differing behavioral niches. Extensive foraging by elk and intensive foraging by cattle during summer correspond well with behaviors expected for elk searching out forbs in graminoid-dominated habitats and cattle foraging intensively on graminoids. Behaviors exhibited in the fall were consistent with elk continuing to exercise more selectivity among the available forage than cattle. These differing strategies, consequently, would moderate the potential for direct interspecific competition during summer and fall.
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Vol. 70 • No. 2