February 2005 -- The northern Yellowstone elk herd is quickly diminishing from depredation greatly due to a high density of wolves in the park.
Statistics cited in a recent article in the Helena, Mont., Chronicle say that the northern Yellowstone herd hit a peak of about 19,000 animals in 1994. The next year, the wolf was reintroduced to the area, causing a major decrease in elk numbers. This winter counts are expected to be less than 8,000 head.
?When the wolf was reintroduced to the area, we warned the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission that depredation losses to both wildlife and livestock would be much greater than stated in the Environmental Impact Statement,? says Tom McDonnell, director of natural resources and policy at the American Sheep Industry Association.
The article states that over the past three years, only 12 to 14 calves per hundred cows have lived through their first year. This number is detrimental to elk numbers as a calf/cow ratio of 20 is needed to sustain the herd.
Wolf depredation is damaging not only the livestock industry, it is also decreasing the amount of elk tags distributed for hunting purposes.
The article also points out the number of winter elk hunters in Gardiner, Mont., will decrease from 1,180 hunters to 148 hunters this year, with a possibility of the hunt discontinuing altogether in the future.
?There is a need to manage the wolf population,? says McDonnell. ?Not only will the communities in this area loose their wildlife base, but many will also loose their agricultural base.?