Roaming Bull Bagged in Wyoming

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Its no secret that elk migrate from winter range to summer range in most areas where they reside in North America. However the extent to which juvenile elk will expand into new range isn't as clearly understood. In 2005 Wyoming Game and Fish Department biologists tagged a variety of Fossil Butte National Monument elk as part of migration study.

According to the Billings Gazette one of these bulls was taken this fall almost 200 miles from where it was originally tagged.

“As the crow flies, this is around 184 miles from capture site to kill site, while crossing several big mountain ranges,” Green River wildlife biologist Jeff Short said. “Seems like a few of those Fossil Butte elk have traveled far and wide.” Biologists have been tracking the Fossil Butte elk herd as part of a five-year study conducted by Game and Fish, the U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and the Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center. As part of the study, more than 70 elk from the West Green River elk herd were fitted with radio collars on Fossil Butte National Monument west of Kemmerer — and on neighboring BLM lands near Cokeville — beginning in 2005.


Ca_Vermonster's picture

That's a cool story.  I guess

That's a cool story.  I guess when you are looking for the ladies, you can walk, and walk, and walk.... lol

Who knows what drove him to go so far.  Women, weather, food, there are just so many possibilities.  It would be cool if he had a collar and they could post an actual map of his travel routes.  Those are always cool to see.  It's been 5 years, so maybe he even travelled further.


hawkeye270's picture

Young males of many species

Young males of many species will travel great distances in order to try and establish their own territories. In the case of elk, it would not be establishing its own territory as much as looking for an area that held less competition from mature males. We call this behavior dispersal from the individuals natal range and like I said, it is fairly common. There is most likely a gene (I do not think that it has been isolated or anything yet) that controls dispersal. And some alleles or expressions of that gene probably cause a phenotype consistant with greater dispersal activities. The other thing to note is that it is mostly males that show the largest dispersal behaviors. Females of most species will not show this degree of dispersal from their natal range. It is a gene that is probably driven by sexual selection and thus the males that can find a home range with less competition from other males, will pass on more copies of their genes.

ecubackpacker's picture

That's a long ways to go for

That's a long ways to go for a bite to eat. LOL

I had heard of elk and mule traveling as much as 80 miles during their yearly migration from summer to winter feeding grounds, but more than double that distance is unheard of until now. I would never have thought they would travel that far. That research will open the doors between the respective game departments to coordinate their management plans for future hunts and tags, I imagine.

Isn't Wyoming suppose to have bigger bulls in their herd? Maybe some of those bulls will migrate to Co.

GooseHunter Jr's picture

Wow that is a ong way tom

Wow that is a ong way tom travel.  Wonder how I can get ahold of that VHS beacon...might be able to put myself on some big elk.....just kidding.

jim boyd's picture

Well, at first, I was not so

Well, at first, I was not so shocked.... the west has such huge expanses of land... and then I started thinking about it - why would that elk travel so far?

As the article stated, he had to cross numerous terrain changes, plus he had to see a lot of food on the way, certainly crossed paths with many other elk along his travels and I can see no way that he was just looking for a spot that he could call "his own".

Makes you wonder if he was way outside the norm and just went on a "walkabout" and forgot to come back - or maybe animals can be like people - some have a traveling bone and some are homebodies...

Also makes you wonder if elk - and other large mammals - can be become deranged... or perhaps something like a mental illness such as Alzheimers?

I have certainly known dogs that went crazy before - or perhaps obsessed... a farmer I worked for as a kid had a dog that got it into this mind that he had to catch and kill every rat he came across... he literally killed himself chasing the darn things and they would escape under whatever - he kept going and was running into the side of barns, under farm equipment, under barn doors... etc... and this was new behavior for him.

Having said all of that, it makes you wonder if something "slipped" in the mind of this elk?

Maybe a biologist or a veterinarian should examine the brain of one like this one - and compare it to one that was known not to have roamed - and see if they could tell a difference!

Makes you also wonder now - if deer do this?

We see new deer show up on certain farms at times - and I always just assumed they came from a few miles away... or that we just never saw that one before - but now I wonder if they came from two counties away!

gatorfan's picture

Very interesting!

Very interesting!  I had no idea elk migrated that far!

184 miles

Thats a pretty large roaming range.  Unbelievable.  I had know idea they can and obviously migrate that far.  We have some elk now in east tenn. I do wonder if they will do the same.  Who knows where these herds will end up. Maybe they will move towards middle tenn. It wouldnt break my heart at all.  I love reading this stuff I am a nature nerd I guess.