Bull elk covers lots of ground

2010-12-07T00:15:00Z 2010-12-07T15:25:48Z Bull elk covers lots of ground

By JEFF GEARINO

Casper Star-Tribune

The Billings Gazette
December 07, 2010 12:15 am  • 

GREEN RIVER, Wyo. — The big bull elk was a long way from his usual stomping grounds when he was killed by a hunter this fall west of Cody — almost 200 miles from home.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department biologists said Monday that a Cody hunter bagged a bull elk from Lincoln County that was part of a 2005 migration study in southwest Wyoming.

Green River wildlife biologist Jeff Short said that, while a juvenile, the male elk was trapped and fitted with an ear tag on Fossil Butte National Monument on Jan. 1, 2005.

The now-mature bull elk was killed on the Elk Fork of the North Fork of the Shoshone River on Nov. 29. The 6-by-7 bull was harvested in elk hunt area 56.

“As the crow flies, this is around 184 miles from capture site to kill site, while crossing several big mountain ranges,” Short said. “Seems like a few of those Fossil Butte elk have traveled far and wide.”

Biologists have been tracking the Fossil Butte elk herd as part of a five-year study conducted by Game and Fish, the U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and the Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center.

As part of the study, more than 70 elk from the West Green River elk herd were fitted with radio collars on Fossil Butte National Monument west of Kemmerer — and on neighboring BLM lands near Cokeville — beginning in 2005.

The collars allow the elk movements to be tracked via GPS systems, Short said.

Collars are equipped with a prescheduled release mechanism and a VHF beacon that allows scientists to track and collect the collars after they fall off.

Collars remain on the animals for about three years and thus far have produced nearly 210,000 locations documenting elk use, officials said.

Short said the study aims to better identify how and where the elk migrate so that biologists can manage the herd more efficiently.

Steve DeCecco, Green River wildlife supervisor, said it is not uncommon to have young bulls leave the area and travel long distances.

“A few years ago, a spike elk that we tagged in southern Wyoming showed up a couple of hundred miles south in Colorado, near Interstate 70,” DeCecco said in a media release. “They can travel a long way when they want to.”

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