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Yellowstone's Destabilized EcosystemElk Effects, Science, and Policy Conflict$
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Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195148213

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195148213.001.0001

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Prehistory to the 1880s

Prehistory to the 1880s

(p.29) 3 Prehistory to the 1880s
Yellowstone's Destabilized Ecosystem

Frederic H. Wagner

Oxford University Press

Numerous historical reports of elk numbers by early travelers, when scaled on a temporal basis, show that observations were infrequent, that elk were a much smaller fraction of all ungulate species than today, and were migrating out of the northern-range area in winter. Archaeological investigations in the Yellowstone region show ungulates were a very minor component of the natives' diet, with elk constituting only 3-5% of that small component. A simple population model approximates elk numbers in the northern range in early park years in the order of 5,000-6,000. Plant-ecological studies in the northern intermountain region point to a vegetation poorly adapted to grazing by herbivores implying herbivore scarcity prior to park establishment, possibly held at these levels by large carnivores and aboriginal hunting.

Keywords:   historical reports, archaeological investigations, plant-ecological studies, adapted, scarcity, aboriginal hunting

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