Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Human disturbances keep elk on high alert

Date:
November 28, 2012
Source:
University of Alberta
Summary:
Researchers have discovered that elk are more frequently and more easily disturbed by human behavior such as ATV drivers than by their natural predators like bears and wolves.

UAlberta researchers found that elk herds in southwestern Alberta are disturbed more often and more easily by human activity than by natural predators like bears and wolves.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Alberta

University of Alberta researchers discovered that elk are more frequently and more easily disturbed by humans such as ATV drivers than by their natural predators like bears and wolves.

The U of A researchers, led by biologist Simone Ciuti, spent 12 months in southwestern Alberta. The study involved elk herds made up of females and their offspring. The researchers observed the animals' reactions to different rates of human disturbances in the form of traffic on nearby roads and off-road, all-terrain vehicles.

The elk in the study were found on a variety of land types -- public, private and inside Waterton National Park.

The research data showed that starting with a rate of just one vehicle passing by an elk herd every two hours, the animals became disturbed and more vigilant. In this state the elk consume less food, which can affect their health and possibly their calving success.

The researchers found that the highest level of disturbance happened on public lands where the effect of hunting and ATV use was cumulative.

Contrary to what some people might expect, elk inside Waterton National Park during the busy summer tourist season displayed less disturbance reaction than elk in more remote, unpopulated public land settings where motorized recreational activities were permitted.

Ciuti says this shows that the animals' reactions are not shaped by numbers of people but by the type of human activity they're exposed to.

Observing the elk from long distances so as not to alter their behaviour, the researchers took detailed notes documenting the frequency and amount of time the elk spent scanning the horizon for danger rather than foraging for food.

Ciuti says the U of A gave him an invaluable experience as a field biologist.

"Observing elk, especially in December, can be physically demanding, but you see things you can't even imagine, like a grizzly bear chasing an elk herd, trying to single out a calf," he said. "The U of A is the right place to be if you want to study animal ecology."

This research was supervised by U of A biology professor Mark Boyce. Followup research comparing birth rates in North American ungulates with levels of human disturbance will be conducted by researchers from the Boyce lab at the U of A.

The research was published Nov. 28 in the journal PLOS ONE.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Alberta. The original article was written by Brian Murphy. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Simone Ciuti, Joseph M. Northrup, Tyler B. Muhly, Silvia Simi, Marco Musiani, Justin A. Pitt, Mark S. Boyce. Effects of Humans on Behaviour of Wildlife Exceed Those of Natural Predators in a Landscape of Fear. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (11): e50611 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0050611

Cite This Page:

University of Alberta. "Human disturbances keep elk on high alert." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121128183051.htm>.
University of Alberta. (2012, November 28). Human disturbances keep elk on high alert. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121128183051.htm
University of Alberta. "Human disturbances keep elk on high alert." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121128183051.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

US Police Put Body Cameras to the Test

US Police Put Body Cameras to the Test

AFP (Oct. 1, 2014) Police body cameras are gradually being rolled out across the US, with interest surging after the fatal police shooting in August of an unarmed black teenager. Duration: 02:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Cases Keep Coming for Monrovia's Island Hospital

Ebola Cases Keep Coming for Monrovia's Island Hospital

AFP (Oct. 1, 2014) A look inside Monrovia's Island Hospital, a key treatment centre in the fight against Ebola in Liberia's capital city. Duration: 00:34 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Puts Stress on Liberian Health Workers

Ebola Puts Stress on Liberian Health Workers

AP (Oct. 1, 2014) The Ebola outbreak is putting stress on first responders in Liberia. Ambulance drivers say they are struggling with chronic shortages of safety equipment and patients who don't want to go to the hospital. (Oct. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
App Teaches Kindergarteners to Code

App Teaches Kindergarteners to Code

AP (Oct. 1, 2014) They can't all read yet, but soon kindergarteners may be able to create basic computer code. Researchers in Massachusetts developed an app that teaches young kids a simple computer programming language. (Oct. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins