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More Yellowstone Bison Means More Winterkill, Benefitting Wolves

posted Feb 8, 2017, 1:59 PM by chloe owens   [ updated Feb 8, 2017, 2:03 PM ]

1/12/17, by Brett French, Billings Gazette

More Yellowstone bison means more winterkill, benefitting wolves

When Yellowstone National Park’s aching cold and deep snow claims the lives of winter-weakened bison, predators like wolves are one of the beneficiaries. “Wolves know the bison are going to die so they wait and scavenge a lot,” said Doug Smith, Yellowstone’s Wolf Project leader. Yellowstone estimates on average that about nine out of every 100 bison die each winter. With the park’s bison population now around 5,500 animals, that means roughly 500 bison could perish this winter. With adult bison ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 pounds, those carcasses will be a substantial source of protein for park predators and scavengers, …Such a large source of food may be one reason the park contains the longest-known pair bond between two wolves ever recorded. Alpha male 712 will be 12 years old this March, an incredibly long life considering that on average Yellowstone wolves live only to age 5…Smith isn’t sure how old the white wolf is, but she’s been with her black mate for more than seven years. Wolves begin breeding at 2 or 3 years old, so the female is almost as old as 712.