Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) behavior and movement in relation to lunar phases

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  • Two small herds of Rocky Mountain (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) cow elk were, collared, observed, and spatially mapped for 10 continuous six day trials, conducted during 2008-2009. Five trials occurred during full moon periods and five trials during new moon periods. The elk were collared with 1 second interval GPS loggers which recorded Latitude, Longitude, Elevation, Velocity, and Fix Quantity. Data were analyzed for daily and hourly distance traveled, and time spent moving and stationary. To avoid accumulating GPS errors, travel distance was calculated by summing distances between GPS locations with a non-zero, Doppler based velocity. Data was then partitioned into day and night intervals defined by civil twilight. We addressed the question of whether elk move more during full moon or new moon phases. All statistical analysis were conducted using SAS Proc GLM with Julian day as a covariate to remove seasonality. Elk mean travel across all trials was 6.75 km per day. Nighttime mean travel was 0.29 km/hr. Elk travel was similar at night and during the day whether there was a full moon or not.
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