According to recent findings, Yellowstone's "landscape of fear" is not as scary as first thought. Researchers say that, contrary to popular belief, elk can safely access "risky places" -- sites where wolves kill elk -- during nighttime lulls in wolf activity. The researchers revisited data from 27 GPS radio-collared elk that had been collected in the early years after the reintroduction, 2001-2004, but never fully analyzed. These collars recorded the location of each elk every 4-6 hours. This was the first time GPS technology had been used to track Yellowstone elk, and no one imagined that elk might sync their habitat use to the wolf's 24-hour schedule. The researchers used the GPS data to quantify the 24-hour schedule of wolves, and compared how the use of risky places by elk differed between periods of high and low wolf activity. The ability of elk to regularly use risky places during wolf downtimes has implications for understanding the impact of wolves on elk and the ecosystem at large.
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