15 Jan 2011, 12:31pm
Wildlife Agencies Wolves
by admin

Counting Elk And Distorting/Withholding Information

by Tom Remington, Black Bear Blog, January 13, 2024 [here]

It absolutely blows my mind that any half-brained, uneducated person couldn’t look at the elk situation in Northern Yellowstone and easily determine that one thing and one thing only is the major attribute in a disappearing elk herd – wolves. What is so difficult? On the same year that wolves were dumped into Yellowstone, there was an estimated 19,000 elk. Today? Around 4,500.

Not much has changed around the area where the Northern Yellowstone elk herd hangs out. There’s more bears that munch on elk and there is little debate about that fact. There’s been some severe winters, but haven’t there always been? There’s been some dry summers, but haven’t there always been? There’s a bunch of coyotes, but haven’t there always been? There’s a bunch of wolves, but haven’t there always been? Oh, wait back up. No, there hasn’t always been a bunch of wolves.

Wolves are a pet project of some and those some will say and do most anything to enable the further destruction of wildlife systems in order to protect wolves. Sadly, it’s very much like the parent who lies and distorts facts in order to protect and cover for their drug-addicted children.

Unfortunately, the citizens of the Greater Yellowstone Area were treated to a media event that included the announcement that elk numbers in the northern zone continue to shrink. Matthew Brown, writing for the Associated Press, informed his readers [here] that the “Famous Yellowstone elk herd suffer[ed] decline.” That decline, he writes, was attributed “mainly to predators and hunters.”

Numbers of elk are not an indication of the health of a herd or what can be expected of that herd into the future. Doug Smith, a Yellowstone Park Service biologist, told Brown that, “a smaller herd is healthier in some ways because it gives the animals room to thrive.”

In addition, according to Brown’s reporting, Smith said, “there was no reason to suspect a continued decline”.

Neither one of those statements can stand on its own merits as being factual. Readers have no way of knowing if they are reading incomplete information, meaning the reporter failed to present pertinent facts offered by Doug Smith or whether Smith withheld facts to begin with. Elk studies 101.2.1 tells anyone who opened the text book, that the canary in the coal mine for elk health is the age structure of a herd.

Consider, if you will, an article found in the Bozeman Chronicle [here], dated December 16, 2005, when discussion surrounded the shrinking size of the Northern Yellowstone Elk herd. In this article, Tom Lemke, a biologist with the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department was sharing information about not only the shrinking size of the herd but the age structure as well.

The northern Yellowstone National Park elk herd isn’t just getting smaller, it’s getting a lot older, too.

“The northern herd is fast becoming a geriatric elk population,” said Tom Lemke, a biologist here for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

The average age of elk harvested during last winter’s late hunt at Gardiner hit a record high: 8.2 years for cows and 9.1 years for bulls.

Ten years ago, the average was 6.2 years and 5.9 years, respectively.

Statewide, the average elk is 4 or 5 years old.

Lemke considered at that time the age structure, which showed half of the elk herd to be over the age of 9 years. This advancement of age within the herd, Lemke said, is due to an elk calf recruitment ratio of between 12 and 14 per 100 cows. That’s so low that it makes it very difficult to recover shrinking elk herds. …

Even with proof from biologist Lemke, yanking teeth out of harvested elk for nine years, that the age structure of elk in Yellowstone was skewed, Doug Smith laid claim that the reduction of elk numbers was due to climate and harvest numbers. …

After 2005, hunter harvest was substantially reduced, enough so that Lemke said results would show up in the future.

If hunting was a major factor in the herd’s size, there should be changes coming in the age structure and size of the herd, Lemke said.

As I’ve already pointed out, herd size has continued to shrink and there is little or nothing to indicate the age structure has improved.

The problems being presented here are multiple. The media are pumping the public full of information which is neither factual nor complete. Whether this is due to poor reporting or intentional misleading, that’s for someone else to investigate. I have my theories. What is unfortunate is that the taxpayers are being told that it is good that the elk herd in Yellowstone has shrunk 70%, that the herd is healthier at that size and that there is no reason to believe the herd will shrink any further. How much longer do we wait? … [more]

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