Early in February, the United States Park Service released the results of the count of elk in Northern Yellowstone National Park. The elk count numbers are encouraging, particularly for people in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Although hunting is not allowed within the park boundary, it is great news for area elk hunters, too.
According to the elk count report, a total of 4,844 elk were counted. This number includes 3,714 elk north of the park boundary and 1,130 elk within Yellowstone National Park. The number of elk counted this year is nearly a quarter more than those counted in 2013, with last year’s numbers being considered to be incorrect due to weather and other conditions.
The count was conducted by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, as well as by Yellowstone National Park personnel. The Montana FWP supplied airplanes for the elk count and the Park Service contributed with the on-the-ground elk count.
Elk counts in and around the park have been occurring every year for the past 41 years. This information helps with ongoing studies that determine the health of the herd, winter fatality rates and the habits of the animals in this area. The purpose is to better manage the elk and to identify potential problems before they can become major and detrimental to the animal population. Northern Yellowstone National Park is a very important winter range for the elk in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.
Studies like this elk count helps to maintain the elk herds for sportsmen and the public. In some areas of the nation, elk populations have declined over the past few years. This means that elk counts like this one are important to the conservation and management efforts beyond Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. The information that is obtained through the elk count and other related studies is distributed in order to successfully meet long-term goals of keeping a healthy population of elk throughout the United States and beyond. At the same time, the elk count gives wildlife and other scientists a better picture of the health of the land the elk reside upon.
The studies are a large part of determinations by game commissions in regard to the number of elk tags to issue each year and when the elk hunting season can be safely conducted without hurting the elk population in the region. Hunting season and tag numbers can be raised or lowered appropriately, according to the population numbers and continued viability of the elk herds.
In the case of this particular elk count, the news is positive. An increase of 24 percent in the number of animals present is quite significant. In addition to showing that the elk habitat is currently in good shape, it also shows that the management efforts in regard to the Rocky Mountain Elk are paying off.
Besides the US Park Service and the Montana FWP, other groups who are involved in the cooperative effort to maintain the herds include the United States Forest Service and the United States Geological Survey. The USGS contributions are primarily out of the Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center in Bozeman, Montana.
People who are interested in getting more information in regard to this year’s elk count can contact Karen Loveless at 406-333-4211 (Montana FWP) or Doug Smith at 307-344-2242 (National Park Service).