SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — More elk are being killed by cougars than by wolves in Idaho, a study by the state Department of Fish and Game has found.
The study found that wolves accounted for 32% of adult female elk deaths and 28% of elk calf deaths, while cougars accounted for 35% of adult female elk deaths and 45% of elk calf deaths. The study also found that food availability and the severity of winter were the most important factors for elk calf survival.
“Things are usually more complicated than one thing, but it’s sometimes really hard to show that,” said Jon Horne, lead author of the paper and a senior wildlife research biologist at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
He told The Spokesman-Review that the findings are also likely applicable for Washington, Montana and Canada.
The study published earlier this year in the Journal of Wildlife Management examined 15 years of data.
While researchers were able to consider the size of wolf packs on elk mortality, they couldn’t do that for mountain lions, which can be difficult to count.
“We didn’t have a variable like the wolf variable where we knew what the lion population size was in an area,” Horne said.