Folks should remember that livestock interests often strive to keep the goals low-

This does throw more cold water on the “wolves have killed all the elk” belief.

Wyoming elk numbers surpass goal. State census shows herds about 12.3 percent above objectives, likely more with uncounted animals. By Angus M. Thuermer Jr.. Jackson Hole News and Guide.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

17 Responses to Wyoming elk numbers surpass goal

  1. avatar Jeff says:

    The best part of this is that not one of the state herd management objectives is below objective. 7 are at objective and the others 20 some are all over objective. I certainly have not had difficulty finding elk the past few falls. Last year was tough hunting but that was because warm weather kept the herds high and scattered until late November, when the snows finally came I still got my elk…

  2. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    So…Are 300 wolves going to kill off 93,383 elk? Let’s do the math here.

  3. avatar Jay Barr says:

    Now is the time to call WY officials to the carpet for their various statements about the “decimation” and other havoc wolves have been wreaking on the state’s game. It just ain’t so.

  4. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    Amen Jay!

  5. avatar frank says:

    Maybe the citizens just need to realize that the presence of the wolf makes hunting more realistic or challenging. The elk are actually on their toes or more wild now. That should make them feel better about their hunting.

  6. avatar Craig says:

    Wyoming does not have as many wolves as Idaho spread over the state. They are mainly in the Yellowstone area and the Elk numbers there have dropped significantly, you don’t see big numbers of Elk in the lamar valley or any of Yellowstone any more. Wolves have had a big effect on the herds there!

  7. avatar Craig says:

    And as Ralph pointed out to me there is no objective goal for Yellowstone Elk since they are not hunted within the park. So, taking that Yellowstone has the largest population of Wolves in Wyoning and the Elk numbers are way down you do the math!

  8. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    Craig, I have never seen a real significant drop in elk population in the park. I know that I am not counting by any scientific method. It should also be remembered that the elk were very overpopulated in the park before the wolves. Even if the elk in Yellowstone are not counted in population objectives, the fact that they are at population levels desired for all herds which does include the ones surrounding the park, should show that the wolves are not having the effect the naysayers are saying.

  9. avatar Craig says:

    How often do you go to the park? The Elk population is down so much in the park it’s unreal! I go to the park 3 to 4 times a year, every year since the 70s. The Elk population is waaay down and there are other reasons besides Wolves but they have taken there toll!
    I’d like to see anybody prove to me why they are down in Yellowstone where the largest consentration of wolves are and the rest of the State with low Wolf populations is above objective goals!

  10. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    I go about that often but have only been going since 1989. So I don’t have as many years as you do to base this off of. I do remember that first winter that the wolves were introduced had a massive die off of elk and the wolves made a pretty good scapegoat. I will also stick with my argument that any lower population number is probably healthier than it was before wolves were introduced.

  11. avatar Craig says:

    I’m not saying that the population was good, they were over grazing big time! Just look at what vegitation has repopulated in the Lamar! The point is the Wolves have reduced the population in this area significantly compared to the rest of the state which does not have that many wolves!

  12. Craig,

    As I said earlier, the Park has no management goals in terms of numbers for any of its wild inhabitants. One exception is bison. This numeric was imposed on them from the outside. This one reason the bison management offends me. I like to see what will happen if nature runs its course.

    I think the elk population in Yellowstone dropped because on the northern range it could not support a high human hunting quota + a growing grizzly population + wolves.

    Did you notice that the Jackson Hole Elk herd is not down? People keep forgetting that this herd is over 50% a YNP/Teton Wilderness herd with quite a few wolves, lots of grizzly bears, and fair number of hunters (although not so many as Montana had before MT FWP could see they had to greatly reduce the elk hunt just north of the Park).

  13. avatar JB says:

    Craig,

    The Northern herd numbers are down considerably in the park and this is due, in part, to wolves. In fact, bringing elk numbers down to something reasonable was one of the justifications for reintroducing wolves. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but if I recall pre-wolf reintroductions there were something like ~19,000 elk in an area where carrying capacity was estimated at ~5,000 (which I believe is relatively close to what current numbers are). However, with wolf populations in the park suffering, we may see elk populations in the northern herd start to climb. Who knows?! These systems are so dynamic and there are so many factors at play (e.g., rainfall, available forage, competition with other species, predation by wolves, bears and people) it is almost impossible to say which factors are affecting populations at any given time.

  14. avatar Jeff says:

    The herds on the eastern and southern portion of the YNP as well as the herds around GTNP and Jackson Hole are all at or above objectives despite the long term presence of numerous wolf packs and the expansion of grizzlies into areas even south of JH proper. Wolves seem to alter elk use of the landscape but their numbers certainly contradict the rhetoric of politicans and SFW

  15. avatar Craig says:

    Ralph I understand they had a over aboundance of Elk with very generous Hunting for a long time. But with the Wolf and Grizzly Bear population growing, and drought they went from 20,000 + down to 7,000 over the last 5 + years. That’s a huge change, I know there are many factors to add in like elk calf recruitment is generally lower in areas where the ratio of predators to prey is higher. Which over the years drops overall Herd number ect. I haven’t been down to Jackson Hole for over 10 years, I have to go to Sun Valley every other week and that’s enough for me, to many yuppie A-holes to deal with!

  16. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    JB, we will probably see plenty of fluctuations in population like you described. I have also read that the carrying capacity was about 5,000. I’m almost positive it was in a book published by National Geographic and the title was “Yellowstone Country” or something like that. Anyway, they used to control the numbers by shooting. So realistically, according to this anyway, it is healthier for the population to be that way. While it does take away from the late season hunt, it is just one of the compromises to be made. I was fortunate enough that my first elk was during one of the last years they did one of these hunts, a 15 year old cow.

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