Preliminary Evaluation of Past and Recent Habitat Enhancement Projects for Elk Winter Range
To reduce forest encroachment and improve elk (Cervus elaphus) winter habitat a number of habitat enhancement techniques have been employed in Alberta, and in particular the South East Slopes. Such techniques have included prescribed burns, bull dozing and burning, and chipping trees using a gyro-mower. The goal of these projects was to restore and maintain grass production for use as winter range by elk and this reduce elk-landowner conflicts. Evaluation of these sites is critical in determining the effectiveness of these sites in improving elk winter range. The goal of this project was to evaluate past and recent elk winter range enhancement projects to determine the present vegetation communities and if they are providing any value for elk. Vegetation assessments were conducted on three project areas representing past elk winter habitat enhancement work (Burke Creek, East Trout Creek and Lyndon Creek) and three representing recent enhancement work (Carbondale Hill, Elkhorn Ranch and Lyndon Creek) developed based on vegetation community composition in order to determine the value of the enhancement work in terms of elk winter range. Based on the findings of this project little benefit is being provided by enhancement work done in the 1980s and the late 1990s for elk winter habitat. Most areas were dominated by either Poa pratensis or Phleum pratense. Recommendations for future direction of elk enhancement work are provided.