Wisconsin Wolves vs Elk

I received a news release from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on Wednesday that I wish to share.

The release is titled “Clam Lake Elk Herd Updates”:http://dnr.wi.gov/org/land/wildlife/Elk/Latest_CL_Update.htm and it provides data on the health of the herd for the time period of July through September 2009.

The report details information on current estimated population numbers, ongoing research regarding forage quality, information on the bugling season and more. The sections I wish to detail include issues of elk mortality.

_This quarter we had verified losses of 8 elk (6 wolves, 1 vehicle, and 1 unknown). Prior to this year the previous high quarterly observed loss was 9 during the first quarter of 2005. So far in 2009 we had 11 observed losses during the 2nd quarter and 8 during the 3rd quarter. As of the end of September we’ve observed 60% calf mortality (normally it takes us 12 months to lose 50%), and 16 verified mortalities. We’re on track to have record losses this Elk Year._

_Detailed in the previous quarterly report were the 3 late third trimester pregnant cows killed in early May. We reported that these were the first such kills in the 14 years Wisconsin has had elk. However, we observed another first during the 3rd quarter. In July we had 2 one month old and 1 two month old calves killed by wolves. Prior to 2009 the earliest calf kill observed was 4.5 months old in October of 2008. Usually wolves have waited until calves are 8 to 11 months old and larger than an adult white-tailed deer before they begin taking them as prey. Apparently that’s no longer the case. Furthermore, up to 18 months ago 80% of elk killed were males. Up to 7 months ago that changed to 50% males and 50% females. During the past 7 months it’s changed to 33% males and 67% females._

Let’s review the high points:
- Possible record elk losses
- High calf mortality
- Early calf mortality
- Late trimester cow mortality
- Targeted female mortality

With these kind of trends, how long will it be until the population can no longer increase and/or sustain itself?

I find it curious that nothing was said about wolf management.

There is something else I noticed in this report.

_Also of note was F275 who was killed on July 20 in a vehicle collision. F275 was 49 days old and already weighed 95 pounds, gaining more than a pound a day since her birth on June 1st when she weighed 41 pounds at 3 days old. She was killed within 100 yards of a flashing elk crossing warning light. Her weight gain indicates high quality forage for her lactating mother, and that we continue to have irresponsible motorists ignore the elk crossing warning lights._

Yes, there are certainly irresponsible motorists out there.

Let me see, that’s Wolves – 6 and Motorists – 1.

I guess that ignoring the warning lights associated with out-of-control predators does not constitute irresponsibility…

Author: Daniel D. Lamoreux

As an outdoor writer and freelance photographer, Dan's publishing credits include articles and/or photographs in more than 40 state, regional and national publications and he has authored three books. His expertise on the subject matter has been developed from over 40 years experience pursuing the outdoor sports.

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