Cooperative Research Units
Education, Research And Technical Assistance For Managing Our Natural Resources
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Sapphire Elk Herd Research Technician


April 2016 - June 2017


Dr. Mike Mitchell and a research associate will work closely with Dr. Kelly Proffitt to develop a research project evaluating the effects of nutrition and hunter access on elk distribution in the Sapphire Mountains. The research associate will assist with the preparation of the final project report, assist with the development of habitat and nutrition models, and provide support to all aspects of the project.

The Sapphire elk herd in hunting district 204 is located in Missoula’s backyard, and as such provide important hunting and recreational opportunities. Recently, landowners and sportsmen from this area have approached MFWP with concerns regarding problematic elk distribution and the current elk management objectives. In response, FWP initiated a research project to collect additional information regarding elk distribution and public attitudes towards elk management objectives. This information will be used to better understand what proportions of elk are currently migratory and how elk are using the landscape. Specifically, the project will evaluate the effects of hunter access and nutrition, as well as other factors such as road density, security cover, etc., on elk distribution during the hunting seasons. This effort is similar to ongoing work in the Yellowstone area and Missouri River Breaks, and it will add information regarding nutritional resources into elk distribution models developed from these other herds. Better understanding the role of nutrition in affecting fall distributions will allow the effects of habitat treatments on fall elk distribution to be predicted, and potentially manipulated to affect a more desirable elk distribution


Current Staff

Federal Staff: 2

Masters Students: 9

Phd Students: 9

Post Docs: 0

University Staff: 16

5 Year Summary

Students graduated: 7

Scientific Publications: 52

Presentations: 44



Funding Agencies

  • MT Fish Wildlife & Parks


Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit Cooperators

  1. Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks
  2. The University of Montana
  3. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  4. U.S. Geological Survey
  5. Wildlife Management Institute