Updates from camera traps used to monitor the elk population in the Lake of the Woods area
Honours Bachelor of Environmental Management
DisciplineNatural Resources Management
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Elk (Cervus elaphus L. canadensis), once widespread across North America, severely declined due to overhunting and habitat conversion in the 1900s. The Lake of the Woods are was one of four locations chosen to reintroduce elk populations in Ontario with the release of 104 elk between 1998-2001. Using data from approximately six to seven camera traps over 9 years (2013-2021), this study updates the status of the Lake of the Woods elk population. Age and sex ratios were determined, as well as the current distribution of the population. A minimum population estimate was calculated with a mark-capture-recapture design. Camera capture frequency of individuals in the elk population was compared to the frequency of captures of the predator population in the region, as well as to the frequency of camera captures of individuals of other cervid prey species. The results show bias from non-random camera placements, which also lead to more adult male elk than female elk being captured on camera and to an inaccurate population size estimate. This study also found a decrease in frequency of camera captures of predators and other prey populations consistent with an increase in the elk population estimates. For more accurate population estimates, this study recommends using more camera traps and using random camera placements.