Study of Falling Elk Population Looks at Food

By Beacon Staff

BILLINGS – A Montana State University study suggests too many missed meals are to blame for the decline of elk in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Professor Scott Creel, the lead author of the study that appeared this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says wolves have undoubtedly played a role in the elk population decline. But he says other factors — such as poor nutrition and a low birthrate — play a larger role.

Creel’s study found that while elk used to migrate to large meadows to graze the entire winter, the presence of wolves has pushed them into the mountains, where they browse for food. Creel found that wasn’t enough to pack on the pounds needed to keep a pregnant elk healthy.

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