Friday, March 4, 2011

Carrying Capacity

What is Carrying Capacity? This is a concept of what an area of land can tolerate as to the amount of activity from wildlife. For example, there are many areas within the Rockies that have large deer and elk herds. When there is an overabundance of big game, the area can suffer. Elk and deer browse on the trees and shrubs. They graze on the grasses. While this is occurring, their foot traffic also impacts the land if the herds are in large groups. The Carrying Capacity of the land to sustain large herds from year to year depends upon how quickly the grasses and other vegetation can replenish. There can be irreparable damage from the animal activities when the herds impact the area beyond its "carrying capacity". Rocky Mountain National Park is a good example. As the elk herds continue to increase, the riparian areas of the park have been adversely impacted. With that, the Federal agencies have brought in wildlife control staff to eliminate some of the population. Just like thinning the forests to maintain good health, wildlife are thinned by either mother nature or other ways.