Wyoming elk population is large despite dire predictions in the past

As Freudenthal leaves office, a reminder of reality-

Freudenthal is on to other things. We don’t know what Governor Mead will do, but over a year ago Wyoming outfitters Tory and Meredith Taylor wrote an excellent story for WyoFile on the true state of affairs with wolves and elk in the Cowboy Energy State.

Barstool Mountain Myths: Wolves & Elk Numbers Strong Despite Dire Predictions. By WyoFile on April 6, 2009



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  1. Ken Cole Avatar

    I like this paragraph:
    “Wyoming has never been a state to let science or facts get in the way of culture, custom, and wishful thinking. Our 1880s-era political system is based on a one cow, one vote premise, and change comes hard.”

    1. Immer Treue Avatar
      Immer Treue

      Who is this quote attibuted to? It would be interesting to use it as a debate point with the anti-wolf folks who are so fast to claim the studies with wolves as junk science.


    2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      I’ve heard variations on this. I remember this one … the representation rule for sparsely populated western states is one citizen gets two senators. That, however, is not tied to livestock, and not as true as it was with the recent population shifts.

  2. WM Avatar

    Did I misread, or is this article a year and a half old, April 2009?

    The real questions are what is the elk population today, and what will it be like tomorrow, and two or five years from now, in the face of a growing wolf population and range?

    1. Cody Coyote Avatar
      Cody Coyote

      WM— the Wyoming G& F wizards do their annual aerial count of elk herds beginning in late January till early March. I always ask for and get those numbers as early as they are willing to release them.

      Going back to well before the wolves were in the country , the elk herds have continued to grow well beyond the population objectives, with occasional dips in those years where a drought left ppor winterfeed under severe ice and winterkill was higher than normal, which the elk rebounded from in <2 years.

      In my area of Cody , there are three major herd groups…the Clarks Fork ( inc. Sunlight Basin and Absaroka Front ) , the Cody Herd… ( Shoshone and Greybull Rivers with healthy numbers of local elk and catering to many thousands of migratory Yellowstone and THorofare elk ) , and the Gooseberry Herd Unit ( southern Absarokas ).

      ALL of those herd units are increasing steadily, even now that we have drought and spring-summer vegetation issues and an ABUNDANCE of native wolf packs right alongside the elk ehrds. There are a couple of sub-herd anomalies, but they do not appear to be due to wolves at all…grizzlies taking calves int he spring, and the drought's effect on lactation and calving seem to be the cause of the underrecruitment of calf elk in SUnlight.

      As much as the outfitters, hunters, and even Game and Fish would like to blame wolves for elk woes, the numbers force them to admit otherwise: wolves are not to blame for primarily affecting elk herds. Secondarily no more than any other predator, including blackbear and cougar. Elk populations are steadily increasing, but the number of trophy bulls is not. Some poorly set hunting seasons , mismanaged hunts, poaching, ATV's , and especally outfitter pressure are now in the crosshairs when the talk turns to herd balance.

      And by the way , the wolf population the stablished packs in and around Cody is not growing as fast as the elk. It seems to be plateauing, but there are transient packs and loners also .And of course our frends at Wildlife Services are taking a ot of wolves at beck and call of ranchers whor eally are not losing much stock at all. ll in all, the wolf population in northwest Wyoming is probably under where it needs to be but is sutaining nicely f its own accords.

      Meanwhile, the elk herds are growing in numbers , and growing further out of balance due mainly to human mismagement, IMHO.

    2. Bob Avatar

      Thing is Wyoming doesn’t have a growing population, some what stable. I wish Montana had a population below 300 wolves, given the number of other predators. A system will only feed so many. Sometime the balance will tip and when it does there will be a real war.

      1. Ralph Maughan Avatar


        With things having talking place with way they did last year, I doubt we will get a very accurate wolf count for 2010, except for Wyoming.

        I do know that Montana had a lot more wolves killed than Idaho or Wyoming because of livestock losses attributed to them.

        Here are the figures for wolves killed in 2010 for livestock:

        Number killed and source of the data

        Montana: 155 Dec 20 (FWP)

        Idaho: 65 Dec 20 (USDA, FWS)

        Wyoming: 40 Dec 3 (FWS)

        I can’t explain the difference between MT and ID. Idaho clearly has more wolves than MT.

      2. Bob Avatar

        Sorry, got busy where I live we use to have 150+ deer in the fields in the evening, hunters, lions, bears, and coyotes all took a share. Now 2 years of a permanent wolf pack the scales have tip to the predators. This summer maybe 20 deer a night. Predators will eat, and top predators see everything as possible food. Point was sable predators numbers equal stable prey and Wyoming has been stable for several years. The reason that Montana has a high depredation rate is the wolves are moving into more private ground, have little reason to fear man,and there is a lot less food for all predators. Just my local view.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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