Current paradigms of ungulate population ecology recognize that density-dependent and independent mechanisms are not always mutually exclusive. Long-term data sets are necessary to assess the relative strength of each mechanism, especially when populations display irruptive dynamics. Using an 18-year time series of population abundances of Roosevelt elk (Cervus elaphus roosevelti) inhabiting Redwood National Park in northwestern California we assessed the influence of population size and climatic variation on elk recruitment and whether irruptive dynamics occurred. An information-theoretic model selection analysis indicated that abundance lagged 2 years and neither climatic factors nor a mix of abundance and climatic factors influenced elk recruitment. However, density-dependent recruitment differed between when the population was declining and when the population increased and then stabilized at an abundance lower than at the start of the decline. The population displayed irruptive dynamics.
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Vol. 95 • No. 5