Elk monitoring in Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks: 2008-2011 synthesis report

Natural Resource Report NPS/NCCN/NRR - 2015/904
By: , and 



In 2008, the USGS collaborated with the NPS, the Muckleshoot and Puyallup Indian Tribes, and WDFW to develop a protocol tor monitor changes in abundance, population composition, and spatial distribution of elk on summer ranges in MORA and OLYM and winter ranges in OLYM. We developed double-observer sightability (DO-S) models that adjusted raw counts of elk as a function of factors influencing detection probabilities from the air, e.g. vegetation, elk group size, light, elk activity, and pilot experience. We plan to develop DO-S models for both MORA and OLYM summer ranges, but due to radiotelemetry collar failures in OLYM, we do not yet have enough data to model detection probabilities in OLYM.

We analyzed results of the first 4 years of elk monitoring conducted under the new protocol from 2008-2011. Objectives of this first synthetic analysis are to:
• update the DO-S model for MORA aerial survey results
• examine abundance, composition, and distribution of elk trends in MORA summer ranges
• establish a baseline of counts, population composition, and distribution of elk in OLYM  summer ranges
• examine trends in counts and distribution of elk in OLYM low-elevation winter ranges during early spring
• determine environmental factors influencing abundance and composition of elk in selected MORA summer ranges and unadjusted counts of elk on selected OLYM winter ranges
• review progress in developing a DO-S model for OLYM elk surveys
• examine aerial survey operations and provide suggestions for future surveys.

There was no trend in elk numbers in the N. Rainier TCA from 2008-2011; the trend in the S. Rainier TCA was not statistically significant but increased 3.3%/year. Maximum counts increased in the N. Rainier TCA ~6%/year. Maximum counts in the S. Rainier TCA increased at a rate of 17% annually. Due to failed radiocollars, weather, and other problems, we completed surveys in 2 of 5 OLYM summer range TCAs; no trend data are available. In OLYM winter ranges, we surveyed the Hoh TCA during early spring 2008-10 and of the S. Fork Hoh and Queets in 2008 and 2010. No surveys were done for early-spring counts in 2011 and 2012 due to high snowfall and lack of funding. Legacy early-spring surveys in OLYM since 1985 allowed us to assess trends in counts in the early-spring TCAs from 1985-2010. Counts of elk in the early-spring TCAs declined: 63% in the S. Fork Hoh, 18% in the Hoh, and 22% in the Queets Valley. We continue to develop and improve the DO-S model for application to OLYM summer surveys. In the next synthesis report, we will update findings with additional data following the 2015 field season, based on 8 years of survey results; it will be a more complete analysis of elk population trends.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Title Elk monitoring in Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks: 2008-2011 synthesis report
Series title Natural Resource Report
Series number NPS/NCCN/NRR - 2015/904
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher National Park Service
Publisher location Fort Collins, CO
Contributing office(s) Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center
Description xvi, 84 p.
Time Range Start 2008-01-01
Time Range End 2011-12-31
Country United States
State Washington
Other Geospatial Mount Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details