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

  • Author / Creator
    Spaedtke, Holger Ronald
  • 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.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2009
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.