Outdoors

Bitterroot elk numbers up, despite wolves, cougars

A days-old calf elk was spotted and photographed by Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation field representative Rance Block of Spokane around Memorial Day as he was touring forest land in the Naches River drainage.Courtesy of Rance Block (Courtesy of Rance Block / The Spokesman-Review)
A days-old calf elk was spotted and photographed by Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation field representative Rance Block of Spokane around Memorial Day as he was touring forest land in the Naches River drainage.Courtesy of Rance Block (Courtesy of Rance Block / The Spokesman-Review)

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.”




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Rich Landers

Rich Landers’ Outdoors blog


Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.


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