Meningeal worm (Parelaphostrongylus tenuis) has been implicated in the failure of several elk (Cervus elaphus) restoration attempts in the eastern United States. However, limited post-release monitoring and a paucity of published literature prevents a clear understanding of this parasite's role in past failures. During winters of 1997–2001, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources translocated 1,044 elk from western states to eastern Kentucky (USA) in an effort to restore a free-ranging population. We monitored 521 radio-collared elk over 4 yr to determine the impact meningeal worm had on population establishment. Thirty (23%) of 129 non-capture related mortalities were attributed to meningeal worm. Twenty-two (73%) of these meningeal worm-caused mortalities were animals <3 yr old. If younger elk born in Kentucky suffer higher mortality rates than older translocated elk, the population growth observed during the initial years of restoration may be temporary. Additional research is necessary to determine the influence meningeal worm will have on elk population growth in Kentucky.
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Vol. 39 • No. 3