The number of elk in the northern Yellowstone herd continues its decline. The Northern Yellowstone Cooperative Wildlife Working Group has conducted its annual winter survey of the northern Yellowstone elk population working with staff from the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the National Park Service flying in three airplanes. Biologists counted 3,915 elk, including 915 that were inside Yellowstone National Park and 3,000 north of the park. That’s about 6% lower than the count in 2012, and significantly lower than during the winters between 2007 and 2011 when elk numbers ranged from 4,635 to 7,109. Officials are confident of this year’s count since weather conditions were favorable across the region for spotting the animals. Meanwhile, biologists say they are continuing to monitor the Yellowstone elk population and analyzing the factors leading to mortality including predation and hunting.