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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Saturday, March 9, 2013

A more near historical equilibrium in the Greater Yellowstone region is beginning to take shape as the 1995 17,000 Elk herd is now down to about 4000 animals..........Montana FWP(Fish, wildlife and parks) always knew that the 16-20,000 Elk that existed in the mid and latter stages of the 20th century was both hurting the health of the land and completely bloated from the smaller Elk herds that roamed this region in the 17th and 18th century.............Now a combination of the full suite of predators(wolves, pumas, bears), human hunting pressure, drought influenced by global warming and the fetus aborting disease of brucellosis have the herd reaching sustainable long term levels.


Decline in Yellowstone elk herd leveling off
LAURA LUNDQUIST, Chronicle Staff Writer

The population of the northern Yellowstone elk remains in decline, although a recent aerial count indicates the drop of the last several years may be leveling off.

On Feb. 18, the Northern Yellowstone Cooperative Wildlife Working Group counted more than 3,900 elk in Yellowstone National Park and north of the park in the Gardiner basin east to Dome Mountain.

That's down slightly from the winter 2012 count of more than 4,100 elk. But park biologist Doug Smith said the numbers should be used as indicators rather than absolutes.

Smith conducts the park's aerial count every year and has seen several changes over the past few decades. In 2005, when the elk count was 9,545, large herds covered open meadows. Smith said that elk are now likely staying out of the open because of wolves.

"It's a lot harder to count elk now — they're in smaller groups and they tend to hang out more in the trees," Smith said. "The count is an underestimate."

The annual elk counts have declined since 1995, when 16,791 elk roamed the area. Elk overpopulation was destroying some of the park habitat by overgrazing.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks encouraged hunting around the park, which rapidly brought the numbers down. FWP biologist Karen Loveless said the final big harvest was in 2005, and the following year's count was 6,588.

Since then, the herd counts have mostly continued to drop, with some years showing bigger declines than others.

The elk tend to migrate to better wintering ground outside of the park, and this year, about three-quarters of those counted were outside the park. That's a change from a decade ago when the split was closer to 50-50.

Smith said that proportional change was probably a product of today's smaller herd size.

"They want to go outside the park. But when there was more of them, the wintering ground would fill up and the rest couldn't come out," Smith said.

A number of factors affect the herd's growth.

Hunting played a large part until 2005. Some dwindling effects may still remain since cows can live about 20 years and a lot of cows were taken out of the picture.

Predators, including wolves, mountain lions and grizzly bears, play a part. The park's wolf population peaked at around 100 in 2004 and brought elk numbers down. But now only 20 wolves remain in the northern range, Smith said.

The contribution from mountain lions and grizzlies is unknown, Smith said.

Finally, climate change is likely playing a part.

Prior to the wet winter of 2010, the drought probably affected calf survival. One of the largest count declines was from 6,070 in 2010 to 4,635 in 2011.

One other consideration is brucellosis. A disease surveillance area surrounds the park, where the disease exists in elk, cattle and bison and causes them to abort their calves. The disease appears to be increasing in elk in recent years.

Citizen working groups are coming together to try to reduce the interaction between elk and cattle in that area so cattle aren't infected. With fewer elk, that job gets a little easier.

But Loveless doesn't want elk numbers to drop any lower, so additional hunts will probably not occur in the Gardiner basin.

"This herd is of particular interest ecologically and culturally," Loveless said.

Loveless just finished counting elk in the Shields Valley north of Livingston where the population looks good, she said. She'll count the population south of Livingston in the next week.

Elk herd numbers fall in Yellowstone National Park
 by MTN News - Bozeman

WEST YELLOWSTONE - An aerial survey of the northern Yellowstone elk population conducted last month found elk numbers continuing to decline.
The count of 3,915 elk was 6% lower than the 2012 winter count of 4,714 and lookking back further, between the winters of 2007 and end of winter 2011, elk numbers ranged from 4,635 to 7,109.
The Northern Yellowstone Cooperative Wildlife Working Group conducted its annual winter survey of the northern Yellowstone elk population on Feb. 18.
The survey, using three airplanes, was conducted by staff from the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the National Park Service. The survey counted 3,915 elk, including 915 elk (23%) inside Yellowstone National Park and 3,000 elk (77%) elsewhere north of the park.
The working group will continue to monitor trends of the northern Yellowstone elk population and evaluate the relative contribution of various components of mortality, including predation, environmental factors and hunting.
The Northern Yellowstone Cooperative Wildlife Working Group was formed in 1974 to cooperatively preserve and protect the long-term integrity of the northern Yellowstone winter range for wildlife species.
The group is made up of resource managers and biologists from the Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks, the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Geological Survey-Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center in Bozeman.

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