Before starting to present the on-going research, let’s talk about the amazing setting where it all takes place…
Ask anyone that has ever lived at the Ya Ha Tinda ranch and they will tell you how majestic this place is. Imagine golden grasslands surrounded by snowy mountains. Picture, here and there, snow bunting flocks flying away in the big blue sky, bighorn sheep defying gravity, and elk peacefully grazing. You are in Ya Ha Tinda, jewel of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains.
Adjacent to the eastern boundary of Banff National Park, the ranch’s 3,945 hectares run along the Red Deer River for 27 kilometers. The ranch hosts an average of 100 Parks Canada horses in the winter,where the horses are trained by professional cowboys before being dispatched into various parks in the summer (e.g., Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, Grasslands).
But more than anything, Ya Ha Tinda is home for an imposing cervid: Cervus canadensis. Once the biggest elk herd in Alberta, peaking at more than 2,000 individuals (in the early 1990s), the Ya Ha Tinda herd has since been declining to a current estimate of ~320 animals. Partially migratory, the herd is composed of residents that live at the ranch year-round, western migrants that leave each summer for higher elevations in Banff National Park, and eastern migrants that summer around Mountain Aire Lodge and the Dogrib Burn.
Winter is usually mild in Ya Ha Tinda. The warming downslope winds, called Chinooks, blow through the valley and prevent much snow accumulation. Good-quality fescue grasslands, along with the relatively mild weather, and the predatory refuge provided by proximity to humans, makes Ya Ha Tinda the ideal winter range for elk.
So why is the population declining? University of Alberta’s new PhD student, Jodi Berg, aims to answer just that. Read about her project objectives and happenings in the posts on our site.
We truly hope that you will take pleasure in learning about the project. You are welcomed to contact us by writing a comment or emailing us at any time.
Enjoy the ride!