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Elk Objectives by District and EMU – Elk/Sq Mile

Nameless Range

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I was lying in bed the other day thinking about the new Elk Management Plan, how much hinges on it, and what it will look like. Based on some of the questions I heard asked in the meetings I attended, the individual hired to write it, and the near-unanimous position of hunters in Montana on the unreasonableness of current elk objectives – I’ll admit I have a tinge of hopefulness, with the realistic recognition of the likelihood of a few grenades.

But I got wondering about my own home distict – a district with an objective that is far too low, and how many elk are actually here, and how many there are per square mile.

Now, one can’t really draw conclusions from any of these maps. Not all districts are created equal. Different habitats, public vs private, irrigated vs rangeland. All considerations. One thing that is kind of shocking when looking at the current objectives, is they don’t even have them for many districts and they don’t count elk in them either. Some "holes" in the data are just that, others, such as 321 (The Sapphires), just have "no wintering elk observed."

givenup.JPG1686617523452.png

Montana gives out this pdf containing all the objective information, as well as the latest observed. They also turn loose shapefiles of the districts, but an incongruency exists between the GIS data and the tabular garbage in the PDF. Makes such analysis difficult.

Some notes:

-There’s quite a few examples of multiple districts sharing one objective. The objective for 350 and 370 has always been 600. Now, the proper thing to do in that instance, where multiple districts share an objective, would be to divvy up that objective total by a relative proportion of the geographic area of the combined whole. But I’m too lazy. Also, I know in those two districts south of me, uneven in size, that share one objective, a the bio just splits the objective in half for each (300). So where multiple districts share one objective, I just gave each an even piece of the pie.

-Where two districts are split into portions (331 East and 331 west are one district, but each portion has different objectives) I combined the sum of two portion objective numbers for the single district.


-For some districts it is a discrete number, and for others it is a range. In this instance, I used the highest end of the range.


By District


ElkSq Mile by District.jpg


By Elk Management Unit (EMU)

EMUs.jpg




Ultimately, the map that breaks elk per square mile up by Elk Management Unit is likely more useful, and telling. There are some districts with a high amount of tolerance, and others that seem so low it’s silly (700 for example).

Either way, I made these out of my own curiosity, and not in the name of any grandiose statements and analysis. You'd have to go a lot deeper and clean things up. It would be interesting to see Montana's objective elk per sq mile against other states. Here's to hopin' the new EMP is a bit more realistic.
 
I was at the FWP biologists presentation in Colstrip about a month ago. I learned something. I always thought the objective was for the whole unit or district. Not so, the objective is for observed elk in the area FWP flies. FWP flies a small fraction of my home unit of 704 so if the objective is for example 1000 elk, as long as FWP observes less than 1000 elk in the observation area the unit is under objective even if the unit contains ten times the number of elk as a whole.
The communication between FWP and the public on this is not good.
 
I was at the FWP biologists presentation in Colstrip about a month ago. I learned something. I always thought the objective was for the whole unit or district. Not so, the objective is for observed elk in the area FWP flies. FWP flies a small fraction of my home unit of 704 so if the objective is for example 1000 elk, as long as FWP observes less than 1000 elk in the observation area the unit is under objective even if the unit contains ten times the number of elk as a whole.
The communication between FWP and the public on this is not good.
That is confusing I was told the total population estimate for mule deer is off of counts that get sent to Helena and put in an equation that had a lot of variables. I figured the elk counts and objective would be handled the same. They are not forthcoming with their data and equations can be manipulated was my take away. I left feeling they are cooking the books on mule deer total population estimates.
 
I was at the FWP biologists presentation in Colstrip about a month ago. I learned something. I always thought the objective was for the whole unit or district. Not so, the objective is for observed elk in the area FWP flies. FWP flies a small fraction of my home unit of 704 so if the objective is for example 1000 elk, as long as FWP observes less than 1000 elk in the observation area the unit is under objective even if the unit contains ten times the number of elk as a whole.
The communication between FWP and the public on this is not good.

That would definitely open the door to inconsistency of FWP in my mind. In the few districts that I am familiar with, they fly most meaningful chunks of wintering ground, and I think get a close-to-good assessment of the district as a whole. I think it’s certainly easier in some districts as opposed to others.

All counts though, are definitely prefixed with “at least”.
 
That would definitely open the door to inconsistency of FWP in my mind. In the few districts that I am familiar with, they fly most meaningful chunks of wintering ground, and I think get a close-to-good assessment of the district as a whole. I think it’s certainly easier in some districts as opposed to others.

All counts though, are definitely prefixed with “at least”.
You can see in Eastern Montana where elk can winter just about anywhere and districts are huge why the elk per square mile is so low compared to Western Montana where districts are smaller and prime winter range is just a fraction of the district.
 
Has anybody got their hands on the elk management plan yet? The first meetings are just days away. It seems like if they actually wanted people to show up it should have been released as it will dictate our management for next 10-20 years.
 
You can see the comments from last year, as well as the district "proposals". I wonder if they are going to give a sort of rundown on their assessment of the comments. I have been told the actual draft elk plan will be out later this month, but it would be nice to get our hands on it ASAP.


It is a big damn deal.
 
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