Return of wolves coincides with decline in elk

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By MERRIT GEARY and ZACH COE/Montana State News

Yellowstone National Park, 3,500 square miles of wilderness, surrounded by geysers, lush rivers, alpine forests, vast canyons and volcanic hot spots. Covering parts of Montana, and Wyoming Yellowstone has become a tourist attraction unlike any other place.

Yellowstone is not only known for its physical elements but also the abundance of animals that inhabit the land, wolves being a species that have been reintroduced to Yellowstone and surrounding areas. While dangerous in their own right, are they necessary for the ecosystem?

According to Yellowstone Nation Park’s website, in 2013 there were 61 different mammal species in Yellowstone, 500 Grizzly bears live in the Yellowstone ecosystem. There are about 13 packs of wolves which make up about 370 total for the population of wolves.

There are seven ungulate species in Yellowstone National Park-elk, mule deer, bison, moose, bighorn sheep, pronghorn and white tailed deer. More

Opinions split on removing grizzly protections

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By TIM STOVER/Montana State News

Grizzly bears are soon to be delisted from the Endangered Species List for the first time since 2007, according to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

“The Yellowstone grizzly bear population has rebounded from as few as 136 bears in 1975 to an estimated 700 or more today,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

A species is considered “endangered if it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range” and “it is considered threatened,” According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

As of now, the Grizzly bears are listed as a “threatened species.” The new proposition by U.S Fish and Wildlife Service will remove protection from the bears entirely.

Since the bear population has seemingly “maxed” population possibilities in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, delisting aims to move the management of the species to the states. More

More bears is leading to more human conflicts

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By VIRGINIA HOLST/Montana State News

In recent years, human encounters with grizzly bears have been on the rise. Since 2010, there have been seven fatal grizzly attacks in the Northern Rockies, according to the Washington Post.

“During the past two decades, the grizzly bear population in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has increased in numbers and expanded its range,” according to The Journal of Wildlife Management in 2010.

The increased number of grizzly bears is due to the Endangered Species Act, under which the species has been protected since 1975. The population within Yellowstone National Park has grown to nearly 700 from its original 136 at the time of their listing. This is beyond the original target population set by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which has been suggesting delisting grizzlies since 2005.

According to a journal by the University of British Columbia, “Bear attacks on people are on the increase. Many people do not agree with killing problem bears but the wildlife service lacks the ability to live-trap and transplant every problem bear.” More

1,300 bison to be sent to slaughter

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By EMILY SCHABACKER/Montana State News

Some 1,300 wild bison from the greater Yellowstone area were sentenced to slaughter in earlier this month due to a potential brucellosis outbreak and overpopulation of the species within the park.

Controversy surrounds the annual slaughter as cattle ranchers work to maintain the current containment of bison inside park boundaries, while conservationists work to allow wild bison to migrate beyond the park’s borders.

Cattle ranchers fear that free range bison will spread brucellosis to cattle populations, consequently losing Montana’s status as a brucellosis free state, according to the United States Agricultural Department.

Many ranchers fear free-roaming bison will also threaten grazing land that is currently used for livestock. However, many environmental conservationists and animal advocates protest the slaughter, as there has never been a recorded transmittal of the disease from bison to cattle, according to the Buffalo Field Campaign of West Yellowstone. More