Laramie, WY – The largest elk herd in Yellowstone National Park continues to see declining numbers. From 2009 to 2010 there was a 24 percent decrease in the herd's population. Since wolves were introduced to the park in 1995 the herd has shrunk by 70 percent. Yellowstone biologist, Doug Smith, says wolves are not the only reason for this change and he points out that the herd spends some time in Montana where officials have increased hunting to get the population down. But, still Smith says the elk numbers should come back up in the future.
"The elk are probably well below carrying capacity, which means they're all in great condition compared to elk at carrying capacity and so that if there is a silver lining is a positive thing and those healthy elk, especially the females will probably fuel an increase in the future sometime when predation pressure lessens."
The herd, which is based in the northern end of the Park is by far the largest in Yellowstone. Smith says they count elk in another smaller herd and it is also shrinking.