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Aversive conditioning on horse back: A management alternative for grassland systems threatened by sedentary elk populations Open Access


Other title
Sedentary elk populations
Aversive conditioning
Cervus Elaphus
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Spaedtke, Holger Ronald
Supervisor and department
St. Clair, Colleen (Biological Sciences)
Examining committee member and department
Spetch, Marcia (Psychology)
Merrill, Evelyn (Biological Sciences)
White, Clifford (Parks Canada)
Department of Biological Sciences

Date accepted
Graduation date
Master of Science
Degree level
Loss of migratory behaviour in ungulates has been observed worldwide and invites new tools for managing the habitat degradation that results from these sedentary populations. We assessed use of aversive conditioning on horseback as a means of reducing grazing pressure and restoring migratory behaviour in elk (Cervus elaphus) at the Ya Ha Tinda Ranch, which is an important wintering range. We conditioned elk by herding them daily in the direction of their historic migratory route and monitored changes in elk distribution and grassland biomass each year. After three summers of aversive conditioning treatments, summer elk presence on the targeted grassland had declined substantially and grassland biomass had increased. Although elk use shifted in the desired direction, we did not detect any longer-distance migration in targeted elk. Our research suggests that aversive conditioning on horseback can temporarily reduce grazing pressure on threatened grasslands, but is unlikely to change migratory behaviour.
License granted by Holger Spaedtke ( on 2009-09-08T16:56:31Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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