MISSOULA, Mont. — Elk season is over, leaving you with another autumn's worth of memories. While you're reminiscing, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation asks you to think about the country where you hunted, how it's changed through the years and how it's likely to change in the future.
Here are the Elk Foundation's Top 5 signs that your elk hunting area may need serious habitat stewardship:
1. Habitat Fragmentation — New subdivisions and ranchettes are eliminating and cutting off key habitat, particularly in winter range and migration corridors. Increased human activity and vehicular traffic compound impacts to elk.
2. Weeds Amok — Knapweed, yellow starthistle, leafy spurge and other invasive weeds are consuming the West. These noxious exotics kill or displace native forage that elk and other species depend on for grazing.
3. Sick Forests — Years of suppressing wildfire has led to dense, choked timber piled high with deadfall. These conditions lead to massive beetle infestations, threaten catastrophic wildfire and offer little benefit, other than escape cover, for elk. Yet overgrown forests are becoming more rule than exception.
4. Vanishing Meadows & Aspen Stands — Fire suppression has also allowed pinion, juniper, fir and other evergreens to overtake meadows and aspen stands. The resulting shade shrivels understory plants, cutting available forage for elk by up to 90 percent.
5. Lack of Water — Many traditional watering holes are drying up earlier and earlier in the year. Elk are forced to abandon historic ranges and follow the water to survive.
Since launching nearly 25 years ago, the Elk Foundation has helped address these and other habitat issues on over 5.4 million acres. Rallying a legion of partners, RMEF's annual projects include weed treatments, prescribed burns, forest thinning, construction of guzzlers, riparian restorations, land acquisitions, conservation easements and more.
Sample projects for your state are listed at the Elk Foundation Web site: www.rmef.org. Click on "Conservation" and then "Where We Conserve."
"Members, volunteers and supporters of the Elk Foundation are making a difference but there is still much work to do," said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. "We invite everyone who cares about elk, elk country and elk hunting to join us."
For membership information, visit www.rmef.org or call 800-CALL-ELK.