Forestry and Elk in Inland Northwest Forests – Complete Data Analysis

May 24, 2011

NCASI’s research on influences of forestry on nutrition and habitat quality for elk primarily included two regions of the Pacific Northwest: the temperate rainforests of western Oregon and Washington, and the inland forests of eastern Oregon and Washington. Analysis of data and building of new nutrition-explicit elk habitat models, in collaboration with the US Forest Service and Oregon and Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife for western OR and WA, are complete.

Beta versions of the models are already being implemented by the USFS, mainly for informing new national forest plans. These models directly reflect the positive benefits of forest management for improving habitat quality for elk, a major change compared to previous elk habitat models, developed in the 1980s.

However, much work remains for data collected from 2004-2007 in the inland forests of eastern OR and WA, including development of new elk habitat evaluation models for this area, in collaboration with USFS and the two state wildlife departments.

Influences of climate-vegetation-forestry interactions are more dynamic and complicated in the inland Northwest than in the rainforests near the coast, but the data again illustrate the benefits to elk from active forest management, particularly in the wetter forest habitats during summer in the inland region.

These results also should have relevance in Idaho and northwestern Montana. 


NCASI’s staff scientists analyzed data, developed nutrition algorithms for elk habitat models, and prepared final reports and publications. All laboratory assays are completed, and data on vegetation, foraging and nutrition, GPS telemetry data, body fat and reproduction, and other topics have been entered into databases and are ready for data analyses.

The data sets for the region include six years of body condition, pregnancy, and survival data of the wild elk herd, roughly 4 million GPS-based telemetry data points representing wild elk habitat use and distribution, and three years of nutrition data collection with NCASI’s tame elk herd.


Data analysis focused on three primary topics:

  1. understanding relationships between nutrition and body condition and reproduction of elk herds in inland forests;
  2. improving understanding of how forest management affects the nutritional value of forest habitats to elk on spring, summer, and early autumn ranges; and
  3. continued work with the US Forest Service and state wildlife agencies to apply forestry-nutrition data in the development of new elk habitat evaluation models for the inland Northwest.