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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Elk use of winter range as affected by cattle grazing, fertilizing, and burning in southeastern Washington

Published source details

Skovlin J.M., Edgerton P.J. & Mcconnell B.R. (1983) Elk use of winter range as affected by cattle grazing, fertilizing, and burning in southeastern Washington. Journal of Range Management, 36, 184-189


This study is summarised as evidence for the intervention(s) shown on the right. The icon shows which synopsis it is relevant to.

Manage vegetation using livestock grazing Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

A randomized, replicated, controlled study in 1971–1974 of a grassland in Washington, USA (Skovlin et al. 1983) found that spring grazing by cattle did not increase pasture use by Rocky Mountain elk Cervus canadensis nelsoni the following winter. There were no significant differences in the numbers of elk using cattle-grazed and ungrazed plots in the first winter (grazed: 60; ungrazed: 68 elk days/ha) or third winter (grazed: 38; ungrazed: 51 elk days/ha) after cattle grazing commenced. In the second winter, fewer elk used grazed plots (71 elk days/ha) than used ungrazed plots (98 elk days/ha). Three plots (9.3 ha each) were randomly assigned to be grazed by cattle and three were ungrazed. Grazing was at a rate of one mature cow or equivalent/2.4 ha, from mid-April to early-June in 1971–1973. Elk pellets were counted each spring to assess elk use of plots in winters of 1971–1972, 1972–1973, and 1973–1974.

(Summarised by Nick Littlewood)

Apply fertilizer to vegetation to increase food availability Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

A randomized, replicated, controlled study in 1971–1974 of a grassland in Washington, USA (Skovlin et al. 1983) found that applying fertilizer increased overwintering numbers of Rocky Mountain elk Cervus canadensis nelsoni the following winter, but not in subsequent winters. After one year, elk use was higher in fertilized areas (82 elk days/ha) than in unfertilized areas (55 elk days/ha). There was no difference in use by elk in the second (fertilized: 79; unfertilized: 90 elk days/ha) or third winters (fertilized: 45; unfertilized: 42 elk days/ha) following fertilizer application. Within each of six plots, one subplot was randomly assigned for fertilizer application and one was unfertilized. Subplots measured 3 ha. Fertilizer was applied once, in autumn 1971, at 56 kg N/ha. Elk pellets were counted in spring, to assess use of plots in the winters of 1971–1972, 1972–1973 and 1973–1974.

(Summarised by Nick Littlewood)

Use prescribed burning Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

A randomized, replicated, controlled study in 1971–1974 of a grassland in Washington, USA (Skovlin et al. 1983) found that burning grass did not increase overwinter use by Rocky Mountain elk Cervus canadensis nelsoni. Overwinter use by elk totalled 47–80 elk days/ha on burned areas and 42–79 elk days/ha on unburned areas. Within each of six plots, one 3.1-ha subplot was randomly assigned for burning and one was not burned. Burning was carried out once, in late-autumn 1971. Elk pellets were counted in spring to assess use of plots in the winters of 1971–1972, 1972–1973 and 1973–1974.

(Summarised by Nick Littlewood)