HUNTING — An ambitious elk study in the East Fork of the Bitterroot River has documented an increase in elk calf survival. Wolves have not been a significant factor this year, although mountain lions have taken a toll on the elk.
Craig Jourdonnais of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks says he counted 56 elk calves per 100 cows during an aerial flight in July.
He said1976 was the last time elk calf numbers were that high.
The ratio between elk calves and cows at one point in recent years dropped into the teens.
An elk study has found that 17 elk calves have died since June, and of those six were killed by mountain lions and four by black bears. Two deaths were human related and it’s unclear how the other five died.
While biologists are encouraged, they warn there's a reason the study runs for three years.
“It was a screwy winter with not a lot of snow,” Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks research technician Ben Jimenez said in a story by the Ravalli Republic. “That’s why we do these studies for three years. … Who knows? Maybe this winter we’ll see a huge number of wolf kills.”