Elk NetworkExpanding Wyoming Wolf Population Drives Down Mountain Lion Numbers, Impacts Elk Too

General | January 28, 2021

New research shows expanding wolf populations have significant impacts on mountain lion populations.

Specifically, researchers monitored a pack of five wolves that moved into the Wyoming’s National Elk Refuge in February of 1999. As they did so, they not only pushed out mountain lions but also preyed on them. Data shows wolves reduced the mountain lion population by 48 percent over a 17-year period.

“We had no expectation that wolves were going to drive mountain lions to the ground,” Mark Elbroch, lead researcher, told the Wildlife Society.

In fact, they determined 20 wolves have a greater impact on the big cat population over one year than the human population does over that same time period.

Additionally, researchers determined wolves force elk out of forests and rugged terrain where mountain lions live into open areas. And from there, elk become easier prey for wolves.

“There’s a double hit on the elk that was occurring,” Elbroch told the Wildlife Society. “Wolves are the greatest impact on the abundance of elk.”

Wolves reduced the amount of elk available to mountain lions triggering an increase in starvation.

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