Finally, a real study, and released to the public-
Not surprisingly (to me anyway) the effect of wolves on elk populations varies by area and presence of other predators such as grizzly bears. In addition hunters affect elk more than wolves. When considering wolves and ungulates alone, I take this report to be generally quite positive for the effects of wolves on ungulates.
Here is the news release, but there is the much larger report available to for those interested. Here is the 90+ page full report. Ralph Maughan
Added. Notice how the MSM immediately gives the results of this an immediate spin by means of the headline. Wolves tied to elk decline in parts of state. By EVE BYRON – Independent Record
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – FEBRUARY 6, 2008
Contact Ron Aasheim, 406-444-4038; Justin Gude, 406-444-3767; or visit FWP’s Web site
Study Finds Mixed Wolf Impacts On Elk Populations-
Not all elk populations respond in the same manner when faced with sharing the landscape with wolves, a new report by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks suggests.
Researchers who spent the past seven years measuring the populations and behavior of elk in Montana found that elk numbers in some areas of southwestern Montana have dropped rapidly due mostly to the loss of elk calves targeted by wolves and grizzly bears that inhabit the same area. The same study, led by FWP and Montana State University, also suggests that in some areas of western Montana elk numbers have increased while hunter-harvests of elk have decreased, with little apparent influence by local wolf packs on elk numbers.
“One-size-fits-all explanations of wolf-elk interactions across large landscapes do not seem to exist,” said Justin Gude, FWP’s chief of wildlife research in Helena.
The 95-page report contains two sections. The first section summarizes research efforts in the Greater Yellowstone Area and southwestern Montana, with a primary focus on wolf-elk interactions. The second section summarizes FWP data collection and monitoring efforts from the entire range of wolves in Montana.In their study of elk and wolves southwestern Montana and within the Greater Yellowstone Area, researchers found that elk are the primary prey species for wolves, especially during the cold-weather months that stretch from November through April. “Our research shows that wolves outside of Yellowstone National Park tend to prey on elk calves more than on adult female elk, but they will also target adult male elk that inhabit a wolf pack’s territory,” Gude said.
Gude said the wolves’ wintertime predation on elk varies widely across southwestern Montana and the Greater Yellowstone Area, from about seven to 23 elk killed per wolf at any
time between the months of November and April. “In summer, data are more limited,” Gude said, “but it appears that wolves kill fewer elk during summer than during winter.”
Listed below are some other findings from the study.
- In the Northern Yellowstone elk herd, a continued decline in elk numbers is likely unless total predator to elk ratios decline, even if hunting pressure remains low.
- In most areas with low total predator to elk ratios, elk numbers have remained stable or have increased since wolf restoration began.
- Wolves influence elk distribution, movements, group sizes, and habitat selection to varying degrees in different areas, but hunting activity and hunter access have a greater impact on elk distribution, movements, group sizes, and habitat selection than do wolves.
- Elk and moose populations in northwestern Montana appear to be stable or increasing in the few areas that have sufficient data to examine long-term trends.
- In most of northwestern Montana, it’s probable that white-tailed deer are the major prey of wolves, yet the recent decline in deer numbers there is most likely due to poor fawn survival and recruitment during the recent spate of severe winters-in combination with high antlerless harvests by hunters and wolf-predation rates.
- Some areas in Montana are unsuitable to wolves because livestock depredations continually lead to wolf removals, preventing wolf numbers from increasing at rates similar to protected areas. In these areas, wolves are less likely to limit deer and elk populations.
The final report is available online at fwp.mt.gov. Click “Elk-Wolf Interactions.” For more information call Justin Gude, 406-444-3767.
– fwp –