The annual, and always controversial count of elk on the Yellowstone northern range has been released. The northern range of Yellowstone extends well north of Yellowstone Park itself.
The news article concludes on the basis of speculation by a couple biologists that more elk are now living north of the Park due to the long term drought, lack of predators, and milder winters. A Montana state biologist says this makes the winter range north of the Park even more valuable. This is true. That range has always been invaluable and the state ought be buying more of it before it is completely filled with trophy homes.
If this is a trend, however, it takes more than one year to establish. One data point does not make a trend. This year’s elk count is two months late. As the winter progresses, these elk move to lower elevations, and that always means north. Until these “new” locations are replicated, we don’t know that elk are in general moving north.
It would certainly help if the agencies could get it together to count the elk at the same time every winter. That is what they are supposed to do — count at the same time each year. Otherwise, you end up with hard to compare figures.
Story. Count shows elk pushing north out of Yellowstone. By Mike Stark. Billings Gazette.