PREDICTIVE MODEL-GUIDED FECAL PELLET SAMPLING FOR DENSITY ESTIMATION AND GENETIC CHARACTERIZATION OF TULE ELK IN COLUSA AND LAKE COUNTIES, CA.
Tom Batter; Mammalian Ecology and Conservation Unit, UC Davis; 1 Shields Ave, Davis, CA, 95616, Davis, CA, 95616; (402) 630-2778; tbatter@ucdavis.edu; Josh Bush, Ben Sacks
The tule elk (Cervus canadensis nannodes) is a subspecies of elk endemic to California nearly driven to extinction in the late 19th century. Currently >5,000 tule elk occur in 22 recognized populations. The California Department of Fish & Wildlife currently employs aerial survey counts as an index of abundance. However, count indices can be misleading, prompting an interest in fecal DNA spatially explicit capture-recapture methods to formally estimate density and abundance. Systematic collection of DNA samples also helps clarify distribution and facilitates investigation of connectivity and genetic substructure within populations, which are poorly understood and have implications for the effects of management actions on maintenance of genetic diversity. We developed a predictive maximum entropy (MaxEnt) model for tule elk in Colusa and Lake Counties, CA, to guide fecal pellet sampling for these DNA applications. During June-September 2017 and 2018 we conducted sampling surveys to test the model and obtain genetic samples across three subpopulations. We collected 513 pellets in 2017 and 315 in 2018 (where sampling was curtailed by the Mendocino Complex Fire). Here we present preliminary results related to density, abundance, and population structure.
Ecology and Conservation of Mammals II   Student Paper