Mount Rainier National Park and Olympic National Park elk monitoring program annual report 2011

Natural Resource Data Series NPS/NCCN/NRDS-2013/437

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Fiscal year 2011 was the first year of implementing an approved elk monitoring protocol in Mount Rainier (MORA) and Olympic (OLYM) National Parks in the North Coast and Cascades Network (NCCN) (Griffin et al. 2012). However, it was the fourth and second year of gathering data according to protocol in MORA and OLYM respectively; data gathered during the protocol development phase followed procedures that are laid out in the protocol. Elk monitoring in these large wilderness parks relies on aerial surveys from a helicopter. Summer surveys are intended to provide quantitative estimates of abundance, sex and age composition, and distribution of migratory elk in high elevation trend count areas.

An unknown number of elk is not detected during surveys; however the protocol estimates the number of missed elk by applying a model that accounts for detection bias. Detection bias in elk surveys in MORA is estimated using a double-observer sightability model that was developed using survey data from 2008-2010 (Griffin et al. 2012). That model was developed using elk that were previously equipped with radio collars by cooperating tribes. At the onset of protocol development in OLYM there were no existing radio-collars on elk. Consequently the majority of the effort in OLYM in the past 4 years has been focused on capturing and radio-collaring elk and conducting sightability trials needed to develop a double-observer sightability model in OLYM. In this annual report we provide estimates of abundance and composition for MORA elk, raw counts of elk made in OLYM, and describe sightability trials conducted in OLYM.

At MORA the North trend count area was surveyed twice and the South once (North Rainier herd, and South Rainier herd). We counted 373 and 267 elk during two replicate surveys of the North Rainier herd, and 535 elk in the South Rainier herd. Using the model, we estimated that 413 and 320 elk were in the North and 652 elk were in the South trend count areas during the time of the respective surveys.

At OLYM, the Core and Northwest trend count areas were completely surveyed, as were portions of the Quinault. In addition, we surveyed 10 survey units specifically to get resight data. Two-hundred and forty eight elk were counted in the Core, 19 in the Northwest, and 169 in the Quinault. We conducted double-observer sightability trials associated with 14 collared elk groups for use in developing the double-observer sightability model for OLYM.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
Federal Government Series
Mount Rainier National Park and Olympic National Park elk monitoring program annual report 2011
Series title:
Natural Resource Data Series
Series number:
Year Published:
National Park Service
Publisher location:
Fort Collins, CO
Contributing office(s):
Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center
ix, 21 p.
United States
Other Geospatial:
Mount Rainier National Park