The Northern Yellowstone Cooperative Wildlife Working Group conducted its annual winter survey of the northern Yellowstone elk population on January 20, 2015. The survey, using three airplanes, was conducted by staff from the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the National Park Service. Staff counted 4,844 elk, including 1130 elk (23%) inside Yellowstone National Park and 3,714 elk (77%) north of the park. Survey conditions were favorable across the region.
The 2015 count was 24% higher than the 3,915 elk counted in 2013 and was the highest since 6,037 elk were counted in 2010. Survey conditions in 2014 were poor and resulted in an inaccurate count.
The Working Group will continue to monitor trends of the northern Yellowstone elk population and evaluate the relative contribution of various components of mortality, including predation, environmental factors, and hunting. The Working Group was formed in 1974 to cooperatively preserve and protect the long-term integrity of the northern Yellowstone winter range for wildlife species by increasing our scientific knowledge of the species and their habitats, promoting prudent land management activities, and encouraging an interagency approach to answering questions and solving problems. The Working Group is comprised of resource managers and biologists from the Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks, National Park Service (Yellowstone National Park), U.S. Forest Service (Custer Gallatin National Forest), and U.S. Geological Survey-Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center, Bozeman.