How would you feel if you had a neighbor that watched your every move? What would you do? Would you change your behavior?
What if this neighbor was...a wolf? That's the nature of the beast for bull elk in and around Yellowstone Park. Scott Creel, professor of ecology at Montana State University, recently studied the elk's response to wolf predators.
Turns out males are having a harder time keeping up defenses than females. They enter winter already underweight because in the fall, they've got a one-track mind for mating. As winter rolls in, the starved elk are so focused on feeding that they forget to keep an eye out for predators, and wolves are taking advantage. The elk are also forming smaller herds and eating shrubs and sticks instead of calorie-dense grass. These changes in behavior may have consequences down the road for elk and their calves. According to Creel, their human neighbors are another problem...
Creel: "Wildlife is increasingly restricted to just small protected areas as human population growth continues, so the problems of being able to maintain these intact ecological relationships get harder all the time."
Seems like elk need to learn to multitask better in order to avoid predation, and that's no bull. I'm Eric Phillips.
"Imagine That!" covers projects funded by the U.S. government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you, by you! Learn more at nsf.gov.