Maintaining elk (Cervus elaphus roosevelti) herds that frequent Lewis and Clark National Historical Park (NHP) is central to the park’s purpose of preserving the historic, cultural, scenic, and natural resources. Elk were critical to sustaining the members of the Lewis and Clark expedition by providing food and clothing over the winter of 1805-1806. Today, elk viewing opportunities in the park and surrounding region generate broad appeal with the visiting public, which number over 250,000 per year at the Fort Clatsop visitor center. This protocol describes procedures for monitoring trends in the use of the Fort Clatsop area by Roosevelt elk. Specific objectives of elk monitoring in Lewis and Clark NHP are to measure the relative use and proportion of area used by elk during winter in the Fort Clatsop Unit of the park, and the rate at which elk are sighted from roads in and around the park. Relative use and the proportion of area used by elk are determined from elk fecal pellet surveys conducted every other year in the Fort Clatsop park unit. Pairs of observers visit a systematic array of permanent plots in the fall to clear them of elk fecal pellets, and return to the plots in late winter to count elk fecal pellets that have accumulated during winter. Half of the subplots are counted by two independent observers, which allows for the estimation of relative use and proportion of area occupied by elk with analyses of detection biases that account for unseen elk pellet groups. Standardized road surveys are conducted in and near the Fort Clatsop park unit three or four times monthly during alternate months. Data from road surveys are used to quantify the rate that park visitors would be expected to see elk, when driving the selected set of routes. The monitoring protocol is based on three field seasons of development and testing. The protocol narrative describes the background, rationale, sampling design, field methods, analytical methods, data management, reporting, personnel requirements, and operational requirements for elk monitoring in Lewis and Clark NHP. The sampling design reflects tradeoffs between statistical and ecological considerations, safety, and current budget considerations. The protocol provides adequate power to detect a doubling or halving of elk use in the Fort Clatsop unit and surrounding areas within 15 years. Step-by-step guidance for planning and completing the monitoring tasks are in the attached standard operating procedures (SOPs). Information on the status and trends of elk use in Lewis and Clark NHP will allow park managers to assess the effects on elk of restoration programs within the park, build community partnerships, and identify potential linkages between regional land use changes and elk use of the Park. Lewis and Clark NHP has an active ecological restoration program that aims to recreate, where possible, ecological conditions that Lewis and Clark encountered. The restoration program includes an extensive exotic plant removal program, wetland restoration, and silvicultural treatments that will hasten development of late-seral conditions in recently acquired forest lands of the Fort Clatsop park unit. In the future, monitoring results can be used to test for spatial associations between ecological restoration treatments and relative use by elk. The park also plans to feature results from elk monitoring prominently in its educational outreach activities to help interpret the historical and current ecological context of the Lewis and Clark story, and engender public support for the park mission and management activities. Although NPS does not manage non-park lands, information about trends in the distribution of elk use will be valuable in public outreach and discussions with other partnering agencies and regional private landowners.
Additional Publication Details
Other Government Series
Elk Monitoring Protocol for Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, Version 1.0