Landscape, Not Wolf Numbers, Govern Wolf Hunts in Yellowstone

Yellowstone's wolf population is healthy, thanks to the park's large elk population. NPS Photo by Barry O'Neill.

With Yellowstone's healthy wolf population, you might think that elk, their main prey, would be on the dinner menu pretty much anywhere in the park. However, a University of Alberta wildlife biologist says topography, not wolf distribution, governs elk predation by wolves.

"We found that even though wolf and elk populations overlapped in many areas of our study, the kill sites did not correlate with the areas of overlap as much as they were consistent with certain landscape features, such as proximity to roads," says Boyce.

Boyce bases that conclusion on ten years of studies in Yellowstone that involved 774 kill sites.

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