Elk NetworkStudy: Wolves Drive Down Mountain Lion Numbers

General | December 11, 2020

Elk are not the only species targeted by wolves. New research using Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem data over a 16-year period shows wolves also have a significant impact on mountain lions, cutting the population in half.

“Our question was really clean. We know the cats declined — that’s not up for debate — but what caused it? Is it human hunting? Is it declining elk numbers? Or is it increasing wolves?” Mark Elbroch, mountain lion biologist, told the Jackson Hole News & Guide, “The answer we have the most support for, is it was increasing wolves.”

Researchers tracked nearly 150 mountain lions east of Jackson, Wyoming. They found wolves reduced the population in two ways. They targeted kittens, including killing all those born in 2014. Additionally, they made elk less accessible as a food source for mountain lions.

(Photo source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)