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1 March 2011 Seasonal Forage Availability and Diet for Reintroduced Elk in the Cumberland Mountains, Tennessee
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Cervus elaphus (Elk) were reintroduced into the Cumberland Mountains, Tennessee over a 3-year period beginning in December 2000. We radio-collared 159 Elk and monitored them by aerial telemetry from February 2001 to June 2003. Locations (n = 321) were used to develop a core herd home range (789-ha sampling area) to assess Elk seasonal forage use and availability. We monitored diet and resource availability from November 2003 to October 2004 by microhistological analysis of feces and vegetation sampling, respectively. We compared the relative availability of individual plant species (% cover) to the relative percentage of plant species found in fecal samples. A positive significant mean difference indicated plant species used in greater proportion to availability. Lolium arundinaceum (Tall Fescue) comprised 35.1% of the winter diet, and graminoids (65.9%) were the dominant forage class overall. The most selected graminoid was Andropogon gerardii (Big Bluestem). The diet shifted in the spring to a mixture of woody plants (28.1%), forbs (19.4%), and graminoids (38.4%). Carex spp. (sedges) and Juncus spp. (rushes) were the most selected graminoids. The highest seasonal use of forbs (45%) and legumes (23%) occurred during summer, with Impatiens spp. (jewelweed; 27%) as the dominant and most selected plant in the diet. The dominant fall forage class was woody plants (37.4%). Quercus spp. (oaks; vegetation and acorns 14.3%) were the most used woody plants with oak acorns comprising 9.7% of the Elk diet. We suggest that historic evidence, presence of native grasses, and Elk diets indicate that oak savannas could be an ideal habitat type for Elk in the reintroduction zone of Tennessee.

Jason L. Lupardus, Lisa I. Muller, and Jason L. Kindall "Seasonal Forage Availability and Diet for Reintroduced Elk in the Cumberland Mountains, Tennessee," Southeastern Naturalist 10(1), 53-74, (1 March 2011).
Published: 1 March 2011

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