It turns out the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park as well as their subsequent spread across the landscape triggered a detrimental impact on the mountain lion population of northwest Wyoming.
New research shows the wolf reintroduction along with hunting and fewer elk in the region are the three main factors that led to shrinking population numbers.
“It’s interesting to try to untangle, because not all of were intended to have any impact on mountain lions,” Mark Elbroch , Teton Cougar Project leader, told the Jackson Hole News & Guide. “But they did.”
Hunting, which is used by many state agencies as a management tool, is the leading cause of death for mountain lions but researchers found that wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem take an especially heavy toll on cougar kittens and young lions during the winter. Wolves also block mountain lions from accessing carcasses.
Shrinking elk numbers in the Jackson Hole area also have an impact on mountain lion population.
Go here to read more about this research published in the academic journal Ecology and Evolution.
(Photo source: U.S. Forest Service)