A new study shows elk calf survival in Pennsylvania may not be as robust as previously thought.
“Game Commission blood test data suggested that elk were being bred later than expected. Late-bred cows mean later-born calves, which could potentially affect calf survival,” told the Centre Daily Times. “The first things that stood out in the current study were the number of calf deaths, as well as the timing and the causes of those deaths. We had spontaneous abortions, five calves dead at birth — one of those appeared to be accidental trauma, and in two additional cases, the cow died while giving birth. These types of calf deaths are relatively undocumented in free ranging elk.”
Researchers captured cow elk each year, outfitted them with a vaginal implant transmitter and a GPS collar, then monitored their movement. They also placed GPS collars on 127 calves over three years. Data shows the majority of calves were born in early June but others stretched into August with one as late as mid-September.
Causes of death ranged from predation and harvest to disease and various complications. Game managers will use the study findings to help form future management decisions.
There are an estimated 1,400 animals in Pennsylvania.
(Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)