Barry Robinson

Foraging-predator avoidance trade-offs made by migrant and resident elk (Cervus elaphus) on their sympatric winter range

barryMigratory behaviour of the Ya Ha Tinda (YHT) elk population is diminishing while the number of residents remaining on the YHT winter range year-round is increasing. Previous research addressing the fitness consequences of each migratory strategy assumed there was no advantage to either segment when they shared the YHT winter range. In testing this assumption, I found no spatial segregation of migrant and resident home-ranges during winter. Both groups were exposed to similar forage resources and residents were exposed to higher night-time, but not day-time predation risk. Residents were better than migrants at reducing the foraging costs of vigilance and increased vigilance in areas of high wolf predation risk, but not near human activity because of habituation. Migrants were not habituated to humans and exhibited more constant vigilance regardless of spatial variations in risk. My results do not support the previous assumption. Instead, I found residents may be at an advantage on the winter range while forage is abundant and no snow is present.