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Gun shy: new Alberta research suggests female elk learn to avoid hunters as they age

How to avoid a hunter? Move less, and stick to thick forests and steep terrain.

A cow elk, possibly hiding from hunters.

Flikr/Glacier National Park

A cow elk, possibly hiding from hunters.

As female elk age they get better at avoiding hunters, to the point they become "almost bulletproof," according to new research from the University of Alberta.

"Elk learn to become shy as they get older," Conservation Biolgist Mark Boyce said in a press release. "The magic number is 10. After this age threshold, female elk become almost bulletproof, virtually invulnerable to hunting."

Boyce conducted a study examining the movement and behaviour of elk in southwestern Alberta and southeastern British Columbia from 2007 to 2012.


He found that female elk adjust their behaviour from season to season and learn to avoid hunters by moving less, covering less ground and staying in safer areas like dense forests and steep, rocky terrain.

"Learning plays a large part in the adaptation of elk to hunting, and those elk that survive hunting seasons get even better at avoiding hunters in subsequent seasons," Boyce said in the same release.

The paper, written by Boyce and two postdoctoral fellows, detailing the research is being published in PLOS One on June 14.

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