Chapter

Prehistory to the 1880s

Frederic H. Wagner

in Yellowstone's Destabilized Ecosystem

Published in print June 2006 | ISBN: 9780195148213
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780199790449 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195148213.003.0003
 Prehistory to the 1880s

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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

Chapter.  4764 words. 

Subjects: Animal Pathology and Diseases

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