Effects of migration on parasite levels of the Ya Ha Tinda elk herd

Jacky Normandeau’s research focused on endoparasites of the Ya Ha Tinda (YHT) elk herd and the effects that different migratory strategies may have on parasite species composition and abundance. The YHT is located approximately 10km east of Banff National Park (BNP). The elk herd is composed of three segments that migrate west into high elevation areas of BNP, east into low elevation industrial timber lands, and residents that summer at the YHT. Jacky hypothesized reduced parasite load in elk that are absent from the YHT during peak infectious periods and that move away from areas contaminated with intermediate hosts. She collected fecal samples from each migrant segment during spring and summer to determine fecal parasite diversity and abundance. The next component of this study was to focus on giant liver fluke, known to cause mortality in BNP elk, by collecting fecal pellets from known, radiocollared individuals to relate infection intensity to hypothesized factors thought to influence liver fluke infection.