USDA Forest Service

Pacific Northwest Research Station

Pacific Northwest Research Station
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Portland, OR 97204

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Elk Models and Toolbox

Summed Raw dataThe Starkey Ungulate Ecology Team of the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, working with other agency and private industry biologists, has released new landscape models to predict elk (Cervus elaphus) nutrition and habitat use during summer across western Oregon and Washington (Westside). These models provide a foundation for setting future management direction and habitat restoration for elk in the Westside region. Model users can not only evaluate current nutritional conditions and predicted use by elk but also evaluate effects of land management, such as thinning projects or road closures, on elk. The nutrition and habitat use models are combined in a single ArcGIS® toolbox (see download link to the right). We also provide user guidelines and demonstration data to apply the models in an example analysis area.  For more information about the models and their development, please visit the Westside elk modeling Web site.

Westside Elk Habitat Models Toolbox: This compilation of tools, created in ArcGIS 10.0, allows users to model nutrition and predictive use across a chosen landscape within the Westside region. The user guidelines give step-by-step instructions for running each tool included in this toolbox. Each tool also includes complete metadata.

Westside Elk Habitat Models User Guidelines: The draft guidelines provide information about (1) the history of the elk nutrition and habitat use models, (2) selecting regional and local analysis areas, (3) incorporating the models in a spatial framework within ArcGIS, (4) preparing input data and caveats for usage, and (5) interpreting and summarizing model outputs. The guidelines describe each of the six tools created for the modeling project and the tool parameters and processes required to apply them. The guidelines conclude with detailed examples of data summaries for outputs from the nutrition and habitat use models.

Example Data Sets: Two datasets are available to download. The Sample Data is an ArcGIS map package (*.mpk) that contains all the input layers needed to run the nutrition and habitat use models. The data are clipped to a small example study area and allow the user to follow step by step through the user guidelines to run the models. The Model Region Data is an ArcGIS map package that Changes in DDE class from existing conditionscontains some of the required input layers (existing vegetation, potential vegetation, DEM, and Models Region boundary) for the entire Westside region. These layers are edited and ready to use in the models. The user will need to acquire the remaining data input layers (roads, study area boundary, etc.) before running the models. In addition to downloading either of these map packages, the user will need to download the toolbox described above.

Other Information

Purpose: The nutrition model was developed to predict dietary digestible energy (DDE) for elk in summer on Westside landscapes. The habitat use model incorporates nutrition with other covariates to predict relative use by elk in summer. The elk nutrition and habitat use models rely on several key vegetation variables, including potential vegetation type, existing vegetation type, stand height, canopy cover (%), and proportion of hardwoods.

Spatial Scale: The models were developed for application at 30-m pixel resolution; spatial extent for applying the nutrition model is stand level or larger (but typically 100 ha or more). The elk habitat use model is intended for regional application at extents of >10,000 ha.

Temporal Scale: Predictions are for elk nutritional conditions and habitat used in summer (June-August); outputs are generalized for this period (i.e., the models do not use weekly or monthly time steps), providing a “snapshot” of conditions for this season.

Model Users and Intended Audience: Wildlife biologists, vegetation ecologists, conservation planners, land managers and planners from federal and state agencies as well as tribes, nongovernmental organizations, and private industry.

User Interface and Experience:The models are run in ESRI ArcGIS 10.0 (Windows PC platform) as a GIS toolbox accessed through the ArcToolbox window in ArcMap or ArcCatalog. The user is expected to have intermediate to advanced GIS skills.


Cook, J.G.; Cook, R.C.; Davis, R.W.; Irwin, L.L. 2013 Nutritional ecology of elk during summer and autumn in the Pacific Northwest. Final report, National Council for Air and Stream Improvement. On file with: La Grande Forestry and Range Sciences Laboratory, 1401 Gekeler Lane, La Grande, OR 97850

Cook, J.G.; Johnson, B.K.; Cook, R.C. [et al.]. 2004. Effects of summer-autumn nutrition and parturition date on reproduction and survival of elk. Wildlife Monographs. No. 155.

Rowland, M. M.; Wisdom, M.J.; Cook, J.G. ; Nielson, R.; Coe, P.; Cook, R.; Hafer, J.; Johnson, B.K.; Naylor, B.; Vavra, M. [et al.]. In prep. Regional nutrition and habitat use models for research and management of elk in western Oregon and Washington.  On file with: La Grande Forestry and Range Sciences Laboratory, 1401 Gekeler Lane, La Grande, OR 97850.


Technical Support

For answers about running the models with the provided ArcGIS programs, please contact FS PNW biotechnician Jennifer Hafer, (, 541-962-6527







US Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Research Station
Last Modified: Friday,31October2014 at08:33:31CDT

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