MISSOULA, Mont., Feb. 19 (UPI) -- The number of registered sex offenders in energy "boomtowns" was two to three times higher than towns dependent on other industries, U.S. researchers found.
Joel Berger of the University of Montana and Jon P. Beckmann of Idaho State University analyzed communities in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in Wyoming.
Many towns across the area are dependent on energy extraction, while others are dependent on agriculture and tourism.
"In the past few years it has become clear that the development of wide-scale energy projects takes both social and environmental tolls," Berger said in a statement.
Through nine local county attorney's offices the authors were able to study the number of registered sexual offenders -- defined as convicted felons who are required by law to register with legal authorities -- across the Greater Yellowstone area.
The study, published in Conservation Biology, found that in 2008 there were 300 percent more sexual offenders in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem than in 1997 when the Sex Offenders Registry became law.
Other symptoms of social change seen in energy boomtowns across the western United States include the use of illicit drugs, domestic violence, wildlife poaching and a general rise in crime, the study said.