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Summer elk habitat selection in southwest Montana


Ranglack, Dustin et al. (2022), Summer elk habitat selection in southwest Montana, Dryad, Dataset,


Data used in Ranglack et al. (in review), Modeling broad-scale patterns of elk summer resource selection in Montana using regional and population-specific models.

Understanding animal distribution is important for the management of populations and their habitats. Across the western United States, elk (Cervus canadensis) provide important ecological, cultural, and economic benefits and the sound management of their habitats is of vital importance. In western Montana, National Forest lands are managed in part to provide and protect elk habitat needs, and summer elk habitat is managed with consideration to motorized routes. We evaluated the relative importance of nutritional resources, access routes, and other landscape attributes on elk summer resource selection at multiple spatial scales, and compared resource selection among 9 different southwestern Montana elk populations to determine the applicability of generalized regional models for informing habitat management recommendations. First, we developed 9 population-specific and 2 regional summer resource selection models. Second, we evaluated the performance of each model within and among elk populations using cross-validation scores to identify the best model. We found that in all populations nutritional resources, best represented using NDVI metrics, were the most important factors associated with elk summer resource selection. Access routes affected resource selection in all populations, however, the influence of access routes was relatively modest as compared to nutritional resources. Of the access route covariates we considered, the density of all routes (i.e., routes open and closed to motorized use) explained the most variation in summer elk resource selection. Validation of population-specific resource selection models among populations revealed that in many cases model predictions extrapolated to areas outside of the development area had modest to poor predictive performance, especially as the distance from the modeled population increased. Thus, caution should be used when extrapolating resource selection models based on a single study population to other populations. Regional models of resource selection predicted resource selection across populations better than population-specific models, particularly when constructed by pooling data from multiple populations, and we recommend these types of models be used to inform regional habitat management policies. Our results suggest that managers should expand the current management paradigm for elk summer habitat that is focused on limiting access route density to also consider nutritional resources as an important component of elk summer habitat.


This data was collected by Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks in 9 different elk herds in Montana for a variety of different research projects. This specific dataset includes both used and available locations and a variety of associated habitat attributes used for resource selection function analysis. 

There are two different files: one file includes a subset of all the collected data (4 locations per day per individual, selected randomly) that was used for the results presented in the main text of the paper, and one file that includes all of the (cleaned) data that was used for the GLMMs presented in the appendix.