BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - Wildlife officials have tallied a 24 percent increase in the size of an elk herd that migrates between Yellowstone National Park and Montana.
But they say it's too soon to know if the change marks a turnaround for a population long in decline.
The 2015 winter survey of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd counted 4,844 elk. That's almost 1,000 animals more than the last count in 2013 and the highest number since 2010.
Park biologist Doug Smith says a higher survival rate for newborn calves last year likely helped boost the population.
The well-known herd peaked at almost 20,000 animals in 1994, soon before carnivorous gray wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone. Also taking a toll on the herd have been hunters, other predators and harsh winters.
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