Crater Lake National Park: Ecology Of Elk Inhabiting Crater Lake National Park And Vicinity
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Study Area


Results and Discussion

Management Implications

Literature Cited

Appendix A

Management Implications

Elk only occupy Crater Lake National Park during the summer. Thus other agencies such as The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Forest Service have management responsibility for these elk and their habitat during the rest of the year. Summer habitat does not currently appear to be a limiting factor. Cow/calf ratios were quite high on the summer range, but substantial mortality may occur on the winter range.

There is no indication that elk populations have a significant impact on plant communities within CRLA. Elk are widely dispersed during the summer and, other than tracks, leave very little evidence of their presence. Furthermore, it is unlikely that populations will soon increase to levels which may cause impacts such as those documented in Mt. Rainier National Park (MORA). CRLA contains only limited areas of meadow which are most likely to show grazing or trampling impacts. Although we have no knowledge of primeval elk populations and habitat use patterns, we suspect that any changes in plant communities of CRLA are the result of factors other than elk, such as changes in fire frequency or climate.

Perhaps the greatest potential management concern is hunting. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is currently experimenting with early hunting seasons to improve hunting quality. During these early seasons, elk are more dispersed and at higher elevation. Thus some elk, depending on snowfall, may remain in or near CRLA, or enter the park to avoid hunters. Although we don't expect a "firing line" to develop, law enforcement could be more difficult. Any delay in migration should only be temporary because the seasons are relatively short and snow will eventually force elk out of the park. Therefore, park vegetation should not be significantly impacted. Depending on the timing and length of season, early hunting seasons may result in a reduced harvest of mature bulls. Throughout much of Oregon the proportion of older bulls has been greatly reduced by hunting. If harvest of these bulls was decreased in the Crater Lake region, sex and age structures of elk populations would more nearly resemble those typical of unhunted populations. Bulls with well developed antlers may be more commonly observed by park visitors.

Hunting by Native Americans would have a substantial potential for impact on CRLA elk. However, for the present, this doesn't appear to be likely.

In conclusion, we see no need for further monitoring of elk within CRLA. However, cooperative work with ODFW, USFS, and the Klamath Tribe will help identify population trends. Surveys could best be conducted on the spring range, in late April or early May. Counts of elk occupying the meadows near Fort Klamath would provide an index of abundance. If elk populations were to increase significantly in the future, monitoring programs should be implemented within the park. Continued cooperation and communication with other concerned agencies may provide advance knowledge of management actions with potential for impact on CRLA elk.

Last Updated: 11-Aug-2016