embezzled funds? any further information about that theory?
lots of work being done monitoring this ecosystem and the "wolf decimated" elk population.
Middleton’s observations and GPS data showed that elk rarely encountered wolves. And when they did, the elk didn’t run away or even stop chewing unless the wolves came within about half a mile. Most importantly, there was no correlation between the rate of wolf encounters and the decline of either elk pregnancy rates or their levels of body fat, which are crucial for surviving the cold winter.
Middleton wasn’t ready to let the wolves off the hook. Maybe instead of scaring mothers, he thought, the wolves were eating calves.
followed 151 elk calves in Yellowstone for three years. Almost 70 percent of the calves died before their first birthdays, and Barber-Meyer’s team determined that wolves killed only 15 percent of them — not nearly enough to explain Middleton’s missing calves.
If it’s not the wolves driving elk calf declines, Middleton thought, “What the hell is doing it?”
Death by wolf, Barber-Meyer found, was dwarfed by the 60 percent of these tagged calves killed by bears (more than half of them by grizzlies). That was three times as much bear predation as was found two decades earlier. Realizing the role of bears revealed a much bigger and messier picture than Middleton had anticipated.
After spending five years trying to find the one thing that could explain the declining elk populations, Middleton has concluded that there isn’t one — there are many: Trout fishermen, bears, wolves, fish, climate change and factors yet unfound collectively shoulder the weight of that loss. “Changes in the system were perceived as a consequence of wolves,” he explains, but these reintroduced predators actually have a relatively small impact — one that is far outsized by the hoopla surrounding them. The elk population in Yellowstone is at the mercy of a much larger, human-altered ecosystem.
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