We documented habitat associations of elk (Cervus elaphus) in spring, summer, and autumn, and identified features of habitats that were most closely related to nutritional condition. We tracked 23–56 radiocollared females, modeled nutritional condition as a function of vegetative relationships, and identified variables influencing distribution using presence modeling. Home ranges included quaking aspens and large tracts of wildfire-burned vegetative cover in excess of their availability in the landscape, and elk were located in aspen and burns far in excess of their availability. Accrual of body fat was most closely and negatively associated with abundance of pinyon-junipers, ponderosa pines, and other coniferous vegetation. Models revealed strong associations with areas at higher elevations and <5 km from water, which are associated with open water and increased vegetation. Distribution, quality of habitat, and nutritional condition of elk can be affected by management aimed at opening coniferous vegetation, increasing abundance and distribution of aspens, and promoting natural or prescribed burning. These actions would be most effective ≤5 km from water.
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Vol. 56 • No. 1