Gray wolf (Canis lupus) 870F of the Junction Butte Pack at an elk carcass in the winter, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, United States of America, North America. Photo Credit: James Hager/Getty Images

Animals USA25. August 2020

How Wolves in Yellowstone Help the Elk Population (Basically by Eating Them)

Twenty-five years after the return of the grey wolves in the Yellowstone National Park located in Wyoming, USA, the presence of these predators turned out to be a stabilizing force, particularly in the elk population.

“In a future that will be very unpredictable, we want a buffer” against mass die-offs, says Doug Smith, Yellowstone’s senior wildlife biologist, and wolves’ ability to keep elk herds balanced can play that role. Through hunting and management practices, “humans help stabilize elk populations, but they don’t do the same thing as wolves.”

Wolves being adaptable and intelligent predators, they have learned to adapt their hunting methods, choosing to kill older cow elk as they are easier to hunt or to target bulls. That way, the elk population keeps healthy, have a better chance to reproduce, and to keep the population afloat.

National Geographic
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