Augmentation is a viable method of increasing the size of small populations if habitat quality is adequate. We examined a hierarchy of demographic responses to habitat quality, including individual nutritional condition, juvenile survival, adult fecundity, and adult survival to determine if the habitat of the Nooksack elk herd, a remnant elk population located in the northern Cascade Mountains of Washington, could support additional elk. Total ingesta-free body fat levels of lactating cow elk (11.5–13.6%), the most nutritionally challenged segment of the population, indicated that elk consumed diets at the high end of marginal quality. Juvenile survival during summer was moderate (0.66) relative to other elk populations, while annual adult survival was high (0.94). Pregnancy averaged 0.89, and early autumn calf:cow ratios ranged from 60 ± 9 to 69 ± 15 calves/100 cows. Levels of condition (approximately 56% of potential), juvenile survival (73% of potential), adult fecundity (99% of potential), and adult survival (equal to or greater than previously published survival rates) indicated habitat impacts only on the population vital rates most sensitive to nutritional stress in the Nooksack area. We conclude that the Nooksack area is capable of supporting additional elk, albeit at less than optimal levels of individual and population productivity. Further, because only a small portion of the Nooksack area that was used historically by elk is currently used, colonization of these areas used formerly by elk may also have the potential to increase numbers of elk in the Nooksack area.
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