More than four dozen volunteers and staffers from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) scoured the hills of the Montana’s Bitterroot Valley for 12 days on a treasure hunt of sorts. Their goal was to find 100 newborn elk calves and then fasten VHF ear tag transmitters to them.
“We are currently evaluating if the changes in carnivore harvest management in this region 1) reduced carnivore densities as intended, and 2) increased calf survival via decreased mountain lion, bear, and/or wolf predation rates,” stated Kelly Proffitt, FWP wildlife biologist.
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation provided funding for this 2016-2018 follow-up study to the 2011-2014 Bitterroot Elk Research Project, also funding in part by RMEF. Researchers conducting the original project found high rates of calf mortality due to predation, mostly by mountain lions. In response, FWP prescribed changes in mountain lion harvest management intended to reduce mountain lion densities by 30 percent in efforts to increase elk calf recruitment.
(Photo credit: Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks)