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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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Influences on Upland System Structure IV: The Ungulate Guild

Influences on Upland System Structure IV: The Ungulate Guild

(p.141) 9 Influences on Upland System Structure IV: The Ungulate Guild
Yellowstone's Destabilized Ecosystem

Frederic H. Wagner

Oxford University Press

Nutritional research on northern-range elk and park-wide bison shows catabolic decline and mortality increase through winters, and as functions of population size and winter severity, collectively indicating usurpation of the range resource and intraspecific competition. Bighorn sheep numbers declined from the 1920s until about the 1960s, increased during and immediately after the elk population low, and then declined again in the 1980s and 1990s when they occurred at low population viability. Contrary to one hypothesis, the bison population increased steadily from the 1960s, except for slight population reductions in the 1980s and 1990s, until it reached ~3,000 when animals began leaving the park. Mule deer declined from the early 1900s to 1958-1970, and increased substantially by the 1980s and 1990s when they began wintering outside the park. Pronghorns, numbering in the thousands in early park years, now exist at low population viability. With speculative estimates, elk numbers and biomass increased 3.2x between park establishment and the 1990s; the other four species together declined 67% in numbers and 40% in biomass.

Keywords:   elk, bison, bighorn, mule deer, pronghorn, protein catabolism, interspecific competition, minimum population viability, density dependence

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