The Status Of Elk Transplants In Eastern Oklahoma

Between 1969 and 1972 335 elk (Cervus canadensis) were transplanted from Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge to eastern Oklahoma. Three releases (151 elk) were in the oak-hickory forest type in northeastern Oklahoma, and five releases (184 elk) were in the oak-pine forest type in the southeastern part of the state. Cumulative known mortality in the northeastern releases (December 31, 1971) was 31 animals while known cumulative calf crop was 33 animals. Minimum population size at this time (reliable sightings) was 148 for the Northeast. Cumulative known mortality in the southeastern releases (December 31, 1971) was 24 animals while known calf crop was 39 animals. Minimum population size at this time (reliable sightings) was 117 for the Southeast. Due to terrain and elk behavior, population estimates for the Northeast are thought to be reasonably accurate ,vhile Southeast estimates are probably significantly lower than actual population size. Primary cause of known mortality (85%) was illegal kills. Parelaphostrongylus tenuis was either confirmed or suspected in 9% of reported mortality. Road kills or unknowns accounted for the remaining losses. Individual releases have had varying annual productivity rates ranging from 0 to 48 calves per 100 cows. In general northeastern releases have remained discrete with the majority of the animals tied closely to deer refuges where they were released. Crop depredation has been a problem with these releases as the refuges are mostly surrounded by small private land holdings with agricultural interests. Most illegal kills have been reported from northeastern Oklahoma. One of the southeastern releases has disappeared completely, and two others have almost completely disappeared. Emigration is the apparent cause of these disappearances. Dispersion from southeastern release sites has been considerable which makes evaluation of the success of transplants difficult. Two Oklahoma elk have been reported in Arkansas. One of these had moved 150 linear miles from its release site. Crop depredation and illegal kills have not been as severe in this region as in the Northeast. Potential elk range in the Southeast is considerable (Ouachita National Forest, Weyerhaeuser holdings, state lands and large private ranches) while this is not the case in the Northeast.

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