Study: Bears kill more Yellowstone elk than wolves |

Study: Bears kill more Yellowstone elk than wolves

BILLINGS, Mont. – Grizzly and black bears killed a majority of elk calves in northern Yellowstone National Park for the second year in a row, contrary to claims by some hunters that reintroduced wolves are to blame for a decline in the region’s elk herd.Researchers monitored 44 calves this spring and summer in the second year of a three-year study to determine what is killing calves in the park’s northern range.Some hunters, outfitters and politicians have blamed wolves for declining elk numbers. But park scientists maintain that a variety of factors, such as drought and other predators, are at play.Of the 44 calves monitored this year, 31 died. Of those, 18 were killed by grizzly and black bears, four by coyotes, three by wolves and one by a golden eagle, researchers said.One calf was killed by wolves or bears, two were killed by unknown predators and two died for reasons other than predators.In the study’s first year in 2003, bears killed 19 elk calves, wolves killed five, coyotes killed three, a mountain lion killed one and a wolverine killed one. Two were killed by wolves or bears.Researchers warned against reading too much into the research, and said another year of data must still be collected.”These cause-specific mortality results are preliminary and could easily be misinterpreted,” said the report written by researchers from the Yellowstone Center for Resources, the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Minnesota.Although bears were responsible for 58 percent of the calves’ deaths between May and September, wolves could play a larger role at other times of the year, the researchers said.Bears tend to hunt in a grid-like pattern in the spring and summer in search of young calves that are hiding, while wolves are more likely to kill calves in the fall and winter when they’re with larger groups of elk, according to the study. The number of elk killed by bears could also be affected by changes in other food supplies.

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