July 18, 2009
Elk declining when they live near wolves
Elk in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are starving due to fear of wolves and are not being killed by them, Montana State University researchers said.
Essentially, they are slowly starving, Scott Creel, an ecology professor at MCU, and lead author of the study, said.
Despite grazing and browsing during the winter, elk suffer a net loss of weight.
The researchers also found a lower birth rate among elk in areas with wolves. They found lower levels of progesterone in the elk in areas with wolves.
The elk are trading reproduction for longevity, Creel said in a press release.
Elk are potentially long-lived, and many prior studies have shown that, in species like this, natural selection favors individuals who do not compromise their own survival for the sake of a single reproductive opportunity.