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Study: Wolves make few unnecessary elk kills

[large thumbnail url=”study-wolves-make-few-unnecessary-elk-kills” filename=”science” year=”2010″ month=”04″ day=”29″] [thumbnail icon url=”study-wolves-make-few-unnecessary-elk-kills” filename=”science” year=”2010″ month=”04″ day=”29″] In a not too surprising multi-year study, researchers discover that wolves rarely kill more elk than they can eat.

While some would consider the study surprising, it makes perfect sense. Why would a predator risk injury to kill large animals that they won’t eat? Either way, here’s the news story from the Jackson Hole News & Guide.

Wolves make few unnecessary elk kills, study says
By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole, Wyo. April 28, 2010

A multiyear U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study of wolves in the winter in the Gros Ventre drainage shows they rarely kill more than they need to eat and do not prey on moose in excess, researchers say.

The as-yet-unpublished study also shows that most elk tend to stay on feedgrounds in the Gros Ventre drainage during wolf attacks. The research comes as Wyoming Game and Fish Department wildlife managers and local outfitters express concerns about the impact of wolves on elk populations, especially in the Gros Ventre drainage, where calf/cow ratios have dropped below levels some experts consider necessary to sustain herds of the ungulates.

To get the data, researchers followed wolf tracks to ungulate carcasses and examined the remains, determining the type of prey and its age, gender and physical condition. Researchers also used radio collars to study movements of elk when wolves killed on feedgrounds.

During the study period – from 2000, when reintroduced wolves from Yellowstone National Park first found their way to the Gros Ventre drainage, to 2007 – researchers examined the remains of 320 carcasses. Of those, researchers say, wolves killed 15 elk in so-called “surplus killings,” instances when wolves killed multiple elk and did not feed extensively on the carcasses. Five instances of such killing occurred in 2002 and two instances occurred in 2007.

Read the entire article on jhnewsandguide.com: Wolves make few unnecessary elk kills, study says

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