And away we go!!! Yet another study proving that studies can prove anything. Before you jump all over me because I am dissing studies, I’m not saying this study is flawed nor am I saying it is accurate and complete. It’s just another study.
According to Physorg.com, the OSU research proved two things. One, bringing wolves into Yellowstone National Park reduced the elk population and two, it changed the feeding habits of the elk so that in some areas the aspen trees have been able to regrow.
After an absence of 70 years, wolves were re-introduced to Yellowstone Park in 1995, and elk populations began a steady decline, cut in half over the past decade. Also, the presence of a natural predator appears to have altered the behavior of the remaining elk, which in their fear of wolves tend to avoid browsing in certain areas where they feel most vulnerable. The two factors together have caused a significant reduction in elk browsing on young aspen shoots, allowing them to survive to heights where some are now above the animal browsing level.
I’m not going to argue the fact that the presence of wolves reduces elk populations. According to this study, the elk numbers have been cut in half. I think most scientists will concur that wolves eat elk and in some cases enough so that numbers have been significantly effected.
But what about the change of feeding habits? The OSU report says this “ecology of fear” substantially alters elk feeding habits.
This element of fear, the OSU scientists said, is a concept that is now getting more attention in ecology â€“ it factors in not just the numbers or species of animals, but also their behavior and the reasons for that behavior. Predators such as wolves or cougars, OSU researchers have shown, have the ability to strike fear into their prey and significantly change their behavior as a result.
I reported to you just two weeks ago about a new study out of the University of Wyoming that showed that elk do not significantly alter their feeding habits when wolves are present and any changes in feeding were short-lived.
Earlier, a study done by the University of Oregon, showed that elk do change their eating habits according to wolf predation. This new study, conducted by Matt Kauffman, a professor of zoology and physiology at the University Wyoming, as well as Yellowstone National Park biologist Doug Smith and researchers from the University of Montana and University of Alberta, showed just the opposite.
So, what’s it going to be? Not being a scientist and having any access to how the studies, all of them, were conducted, I can’t say if the science was flawed or not. I believe that each study group received results from the studies they performed and are reporting such. I do believe that research can and is done to achieve a desired result and that is what is wrong with these studies.
So, now we have to make decisions on our own based on the information that is available to us. We have to ask ourselves if wolves actually do kill elk. Seems silly but when you read the countless accounts in the debate about wolves, people and even the scientists will tell us that wolves don’t have any real effect.
In other debates about feeding habits of elk and the destruction they can cause to ecosystems by over browsing because to too large populations, we have to ask if wolves do change their feeding habits. This is vitally important. We have three reports, that I know about, that don’t all agree.
In Colorado at the Rocky Mountain National Park, talk has circled about introducing wolves in order to control the elk population which is needed to restore the ecosystem. One report says wolves don’t change feeding habits while a second report says it does. Isn’t this reason enough to not jump to any hasty conclusions and dump wolves into RMNP?
I imagine the studies will continue and results will vary and change. It is what we do and how most decisions are made regarding wildlife management. I just wish there was some way to filter out the politics so we can be just looking at the science. It is pretty reliable you know.