Study reveals increasing wolf numbers

After years of dauntingly low wolf numbers in and around Yellowstone National Park, the species has made a resurgence in the area.
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After years of dauntingly low wolf numbers in and around Yellowstone National Park, the species has made a resurgence in the area. During a comprehensive study which ended Thursday, officials finished a series of 30-day surveillances of the wolves in the park.

Each early winter and spring, crews spend 30-day periods studying, researching the species which was reintroduced to the park in 1995. In monitoring the wolves, officials estimated this year’s wolf populations at 120, up from last year’s mark of 97.

Those conducting the survey are using a variety of methods to scout the dozen or so different packs within park boundaries. Monitoring from the air and collar tracking help scientists keep pace with the often fast-moving packs.

With rising wolf numbers, reports indicate rapidly decreasing elk numbers. From 15 years ago, the local elk population has shrunk from close to 20,000 to between 5,000 and 6,000 currently. The population decrease has created a controversy surrounding the relationship between elk and wolves within Yellowstone.

While wolves are not reported as the lone factor in the shrinking population, the relationship remains closely monitored.

The study, which is biannual, will be conducted again in March.

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West Yellowstone Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center. Photo by John Williams.

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