The study, published in the February issue of the Journal of Wildlife Management, observed elk migratory patterns throughout the year. During hunting season, the elk instinctively made their way to wildlife refuges and Yellowstone National Park, where hunting is prohibited. When hunting season ended, the elk returned to public lands.
Conversely, the elk didn’t stir too much when approached by wolves; they did little to avoid interaction with their natural adversaries.
The lesson: elk are smart enough to avoid people during hunting season, but not smart enough to avoid wolves the rest of the time.
The bigger lesson: you can’t rely on hunting to manage the elk population, because they’re smart enough to flee the hunters.
The biggest lesson: using a relatively small sample of elk — 43 GPS-tagged elk were studied over two winters — may not yield results with usable information.