Solitary radio-collared cows were monitored more intensively, up to three times each day. Pregnant cows had less definition between the hindquarter and flank. The abdomen appeared low, as the fetus moved into the birthing canal. Lactation began two to three days prior to calving. An enlarged udder was the most significant physical characteristic to inspect. If the udder was enlarged, the cow usually gave birth within two to three days.
Cows were more likely to vocalize prior to parturition. Cows were documented "barking" and "bugling" during the calving season. Barking is an alarm call made by cows resembling a dog bark. Bugling sounds were similar to sounds made by bulls during the rut, but much weaker.
Prior to calving, radio-collared cows typically congregated with other elk. Pregnant cows fed heavily during the third trimester of pregnancy and used the highest quality food available. One to five days before calving, cows generally moved away from areas elk were concentrated in. These cows traveled from a quarter-mile to three miles away into less conspicuous areas to be alone while giving birth. There was no discernable habitat preference for calving areas. Cows used open fields, reverting fields, seedling-sapling, pole, and saw timber areas for calving. Cows also showed little preference for topography as calves were born everywhere from river bottoms to ridge tops. Individual cows did however, return to the same general area to calf.
We monitored 161 adult cows during the study. Reproductive rates for 1991-1997 ranged from 54 to 88 percent and averaged 68 percent. Based on these data the most productive years were 3-10 years of age.