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Northern Yellowstone elk herd healthy and growing

 

Montana Elk
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Last month, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) and Yellowstone National Park biologists completed their annual count of the elk herd that roams the northern portion of Yellowstone National Park and the southern portion of Montana’s Paradise Valley. The results? The herd is healthy and growing.

According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, MFWP counted 7,579 elk in the area that stretches from Lamar Valley north to Six Mile Creek, which is a 42% increase from 2017’s tally of 5,349. While Karen Loveless, an MFWP biologist, says that’s likely due to some elk being missed during last year’s survey, it’s still a sign that the population is healthy and thriving since this is the fourth year in a row that the number has increased.

While this is great news, the number still falls below the “long-term average of roughly 10,000 for the area,” the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports but is still closer than prior years. Biologists have linked the jump in elk population to the increase in elk migrating north from Yellowstone and into Montana. Yet, this increase in elk migration makes the number of elk within the state unsustainable and Loveless says “that part of the state is ‘at capacity’ when it comes to hosting elk.”

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“We’re maxed out,” Loveless told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. “If the herd is going to continue to grow, it would have to be elk staying in the park over the winter.”

MFWP plans to propose an increase in antlerless elk hunting opportunities for the upcoming season in an effort to help manage the population and help with any landowner conflicts. This proposal is a result of a public comment period and, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission still has to approve it.

To review the entire 2018 elk survey, click here.

5 Comments

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Brady Miller
Brady M. - posted 3 months ago on 02-14-2018 05:30:15 pm
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

Exactly! I wish there was a better method out there for these surveys. I feel we should look at the entire picture and should include harvest trends (but Montana doesn't do the best job at breaking them out), that way we can get a true feel for how things are going.

Mike S. - posted 3 months ago on 02-14-2018 04:34:51 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

Brady
The article also states that the 42% isn’t correct “While Karen Loveless, an MFWP biologist, says that’s likely due to some elk being missed during last year’s survey” how many did they miss, 40%?

Then it says,
“Biologists have linked the jump in elk population to the increase in elk migrating north from Yellowstone and into Montana” wasn’t there record snowfall that year that could have forced more elk to migrate there then usually? So if The don’t migrate next and the number goes down will that be considered unhealthy?

I hope it is growing

Brady Miller
Brady M. - posted 3 months ago on 02-14-2018 12:37:49 am
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

@Mike - Both of your points are addressed in the article. There is evidence to support the title... a 42% increase in one year is what I would say means a herd is becoming healthy and growing (also growing toward that long-term average of 10,000 elk). The current population is a step in the right direction of what the herd once was.

Mike S. - posted 3 months ago on 02-13-2018 03:10:27 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

The title of the article should be "NORTHERN YELLOWSTONE ELK SURVEY COUNTS ARE HIGHLY INACCURATE" or "NORTHERN YELLOWSTONE ELK HERDS HAVE STABILIZED BUT ARE STILL UNDER PREVIOUS HIGHS" rather than a bold statement 'NORTHERN YELLOWSTONE ELK HERD HEALTHY AND GROWING" There is not substantial information to support the tile and in fact, I think what you did publish punches so many holes in the title making the whole article seem not credible at all.

Mike R. - posted 3 months ago on 02-06-2018 06:19:35 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

If I remember right unit 313 was closed early this year by the same biologist under an emergency closure, too many elk migrating out of the north part of the park but, now the the area is maxed out?