Term of Graduation


Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Environmental Sciences and Resources: Biology


Environmental Science and Management




Biology, Elk -- Oregon



Physical Description

1 online resource (viii, 166 pages)


Several aspects of the physiology and diseases of the North American elk (Cervus canadensis) were investigated, toward the goal of uncovering influences responsible for declining productivity among some elk herds in Oregon.

A newly developed drug, Etorphine, together with its antagonistic companion, Dip renorphine, was used to immobilize elk. Substantial differences were found in the amounts required and animal responses dependent upon age, physical condition and life history.

Whole blood samples were obtained from 60 living elk for hematological studies. The parameters examined included hemoglobin levels, packed cell volume, erythrocyte and leukocyte counts, mean corpuscular hemoglobin, mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration, mean corpuscular volume, and the percentage distribution of neutrophils, band cells, lymphocytes, monocytes, eosinophils, and basophils. Respiration rate, heart rate, and body temperature were measured for nine drugged elk. Sickling of erythrocytes was found in the blood of two female elk.

Serum was separated from the blood of 72 living elk and 22 recently shot elk of mixed ages and sexes. Serum proteins were differentiated by electrophoretic analysis. Values obtained for total protein, albumin, total globulin, albumin/globulin ratio, and for the alpha1, alpha2, beta and gamma globulins, were grouped and summarized to facilitate comparisons based on age and sex, as well as between living and dead, and captive and free-living elk. Total serum protein concentrations were markedly higher in the older age groups of both captive and freeliving elk. An apparent tendency to higher albumin levels was found among males of this species.

Values for serum concentrations of sodium, potassium, calcium, inorganic phosphorus, blood urea nitrogen, Chlorides, Cholesterol, glucose, direct bilirubin, total bilirubin, creatinine, and uric acid, as well as activity levels of alkaline phosphatase, lactic dehydrogenase, and serum glutamic oxalacetic transaminase were obtained. Sodium/ potassium and calCium/phosphorus ratios were calculated. Urine speciments were obtained from seven elk and analyzed for the presence of glucose. Young elk, both captive and free-living, had higher serum values for sodium, calcium, inorganic phosphorus, glucose and alkaline phosphatase than did the older age group. Mature elk, both captive and free-living, had higher serum values for calcium/phosphorus ratio, blood urea nitrogen, creatinine, uric acid and serum glutamic oxalacetic transaminase than did those under two years of age. Differences in serum Chemistry were also found between captive and free-living elk.

Serological tests on sera from 67 elk tested were negative for brucellosis and bluetongue virus. Tests for leptospirosis on sera from 29 elk by the macroscopic agglutination method were all negative. Of 38 free-living elk tested for leptospirosis by the microscopic agglutination test, 16 showed positive reactions to one or more serotypes at a significant titer of 1:100 or greater. Another eight showed positive reactions at the 1:50 level. This is believed to the first report of serological reactivity to leptospirosis reported for elk.

Internal organs from 39 elk were examined for the presence of adult helminths, and fecal pellets from 82 elk were examined for the presence of parasite eggs. Lethal numbers of Dictyocaulus viviparus were recovered from the respiratory organs of two yearling male elk. Two nematodes of the Trichostrongylus axei and Ostertagia circumcincta, were found that have not been previously reported from Roosevelt elk. Fascioloides magna and Oesophagostomum venulosum were also found.

The common winter tick, Dermacentor albipictus and Ixodes pacificus were collected from Roosevelt elk. This latter species has not been previously reported in elk. Increased gannna globulin values and concomitant decreases in albumin were observed in tick-infested elk.


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Portland State University. Dept. of Biology.

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