Ongoing work by Idaho Fish and Game research biologists on the survival of radio-collared female elk in Idaho shows the role of predators varies across the state.
An update of the ongoing-research recently was presented to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission.
In summary, the research showed that four elk management zones have above 85 percent or better survival, with harvest the primary cause of mortality, and low or medium wolf density. Three zones have 83 to 87 percent survival, with predation the primary cause of mortality, and high wolf density. Two zones have below 82 percent survival, with wolf predation the primary cause of mortality, but one has high wolf density and one very high density.
In the Lolo Elk Management Zone in the Clearwater Region, however, predation, including that by wolves, is responsible for most of the deaths of adult female elk and more than half of the deaths of six-month-old calves. Female elk survival is 75 percent, while normal is 85 to 95 percent, and calf survival from December through the following June is about 73 percent - normal is about 90 percent or better survival.
An overview of the results now is available on the Fish and Game Web site at: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/wildlife/manage_issues/ung/elkupdate.cfm.
The ongoing deer and elk survival research project began in January 2005, when Fish and Game biologists captured and put radio collars on more than 400 elk, more than 450 deer and 35 moose to learn how they live and how they die. More animals have been captured and collared since then for a total of more than 670 elk by 2008.
The goal is to learn how changing habitats and expanding wolf populations affect big game animals.
Weed invasion, fire suppression and human development have altered the many habitats that Idaho's deer, elk and moose depend on. And since they were introduced in 1995, wolves in Idaho have expanded to more than 700 individuals statewide.
The research is being conducted in areas where the densities of predators, including black bear, mountain lions and wolves, vary. The results also show that the role of wolves in elk survival varies. In southwestern and eastern parts of Idaho, wolves are responsible for a small part of overall mortality.
They play a larger part in central Idaho.