The Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus canadensis nelsoni) is part of the native fauna of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. The ancestors of the species are generally believed to have crossed the Bering Sea land bridge to North America during periods of Pleistocene glaciation (Frick, 1937). Fossil records show the presence of elk in Alaska at least 100,000 years ago (Péwé and Hopkins, 1965). An ice-free passage to central North America may not have existed until an interglacial period between 35,000 and 25,000 years ago and not again until after 14,000 years ago (Hopkins, 1965). It seems probable that a close ancestor to the Rocky Mountain elk arrived in central North America between 35,000 and 25,000 years ago. The present modern species probably moved from and back into regions that became Grand Teton and Yellowstone Parks with the advance and retreat of less extensive intermountain glaciers which reached their maximum 12,000 to 10,000 years ago.
The lands within the man-made boundaries of Grand Teton and southern Yellowstone Park did not represent a complete ecological unit for the greater portion of the elk population which is the subject of this bulletin. The majority of the animals used national park lands during late spring, summer, and early fall. They migrated over or foraged on lands outside park boundaries during other seasonal periods.
Outside the two parks, the elk or the lands they used were subject to the jurisdictions of the State of Wyoming, U. S. Forest Service, or Refuge Branch of the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife. These agencies had objectives directed toward the management of the elk or its habitat to provide recreational hunting. Grand Teton and Yellowstone objectives were encompassed in their primary purpose of preserving natural environments and native plant and animal life for their scenic, educational, cultural, or scientific values.
The situation where agencies with different responsibilities or objectives in public service were concerned with the same elk population made interagency cooperation necessary. Cooperative management of the elk on portions of Grand Teton Park was provided for by a special law. Wyoming Game and Fish Commission personnel reviewed their proposed elk management programs for lands outside parks with other agencies. Field studies relating to the elk were coordinated through a committee of administrators and technical personnel from each agency.
This bulletin presents the results of field studies by the author from June 1962 through May 1967. Other pertinent information from a variety of sources is included for comparison purposes or to maintain the continuity of records. Study objectives were to obtain basic reference information on elk habits, population dynamics, and ecology and to evaluate the effectiveness of management programs within Grand Teton Park.