Population dynamics model to inform harvest management of a small elk herd in central New Mexico

Ryan M. DeVore, Matthew J. Butler, Mark C. Wallace, Stewart G. Liley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Crop depredation by wildlife is a frequent concern for natural resource managers and mitigation of this issue is often an important task for wildlife agencies. Elk Cervus elaphus and other ungulate species have depredated corn Zea mays at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico, USA, interfering with the ability of the Refuge to provide sufficient supplemental nutrition to overwintering sandhill cranes Antigone canadensis and geese (Anatidae). We estimated annual adult survival and calf recruitment rates of elk from 2011 to 2013 at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Natural adult survival (excludes human-related mortalities) was high (mean ¼ 98.3%; 95% CI ¼ 95.0–100.0%). Calf recruitment was lower than in some populations, and ranged from 13.0 to 36.7 calves: 100 cows at time of recruitment (March and April) with a mean of 21.9 (SD ¼12.9). Using this information, we constructed a harvest management model to determine annual harvest quotas required to stabilize the growth of the elk herd on the Refuge. The female segment of the herd is growing at an annual rate of 9.0% (95% CI ¼ 1.1–24.1%). To stabilize the growth rate of the female elk population, 8.0% (95% CI ¼ 1.1–19.4%) of the cows would need to be harvested annually. We estimated an adult elk abundance of 40.0 (SE ¼ 4.57; 95% CI ¼ 33.8–52.6) in 2012 and 61.1 (SE ¼ 7.21; 95% CI ¼ 49.9–78.8) in 2013. Our harvest management model provides Refuge staff, who ultimately intend to improve corn yield, with valuable information needed to stabilize the elk herd. Further, our approach outlines a simple, easily implemented modeling technique that can be used for the management of other ungulate herds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)531-544
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Fish and Wildlife Management
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • Age ratio
  • Crop depredation
  • Demographic stochasticity
  • Hunting
  • Mark–resight
  • Sex ratio
  • Temporal variation


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