Changes in resource selection associated with human predation risk may alter elk distributions and availability for harvest. We used Global Positioning System data collected from telemetered female elk (Cervus elaphus) to evaluate effects of refuges (areas where hunting was prohibited), spatial variation in hunting risk, and landscape attributes on resource selection within an established Greater Yellowstone Area, USA, winter range. We also evaluated elk distributions during and outside of a late-season hunting period. Refuge areas and landscape attributes such as habitat type and snow water equivalents (SWE) affected resource selection. Elk selection for flat grasslands increased as SWE increased, likely because these areas were windswept, leaving grasses exposed for foraging. Elk distributions differed during hunting and no-hunting periods. During the hunting period, elk shifted to privately owned refuge areas and the estimated odds of elk occupying refuge areas more than doubled. Risk-driven changes in resource selection resulted in reduced availability of elk for harvest. Elk selection for areas where hunting is prohibited presents a challenge for resource managers that use hunting as a tool for managing populations and influences grazing patterns on private ranchlands.
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Vol. 74 • No. 2