- Education and Science
Wolves in Yellowstone
I recently took a vacation to Yellowstone National Park and marveled in its beauty. However, this would not have been possible if the wolves had not been reintroduced after being extirpated in the early 20th Century. Wolves helped to restore the ecosystem, undo a trophic cascade, and restore Yellowstone to its former beauty.
The Extirpation of Wolves From Yellowstone
Wolves were hunted in Yellowstone and the areas around it to the point of extirpation in the 20th Century. Wolf pelts held great value in the trapping market and people went crazy over them. In addition to this, ranchers aggressively hunted wolves to stop them from eating their cattle. Because of this the wolf population went down swiftly.
The Effect of Extirpation
After the extirpation of wolves from Yellowstone, a trophic cascade ensued. The population of the animals that the wolves preyed on exploded. Elk and Deer began to overgraze, trees died, and the river banks began crumbling from the mighty herd of elk. When the trees died birds began to decrease in number, this caused the birds of prey population to go down as well. The Beavers that fed on the trees began to decrease. The coyote population increased because there were no wolves to feed on them. In turn, The mice population decreased and then the hawks had nothing to feed on and their population went down too. The elk and deer overgrazed berries and, in turn, the bear population went down. There was less carrion for bear and ravens to feed on and their population went down. Beavers began making less dams and otters and muskrats lost more habitat. Deer and elk started starving more and their populations started fluctuating. The land also became far less beautiful.
In 1995 wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park. However this was not without resistance, people were concerned about wolves being dangerous to humans. In addition, farmers worried about their livestock being killed. The National Park Service decided to reintroduce them anyway.However, more people including me wanted to see the wolves in Yellowstone. I can only imagine that Yellowstone made more money from tourism.
The Effect of Reintroduction
After wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995 many things began to happen. Wolves began to kill coyotes, which made the small mammal population increase. The population of predators that preyed on small mammals increased ,and the predators that preyed on them also increased. Wolves left behind carcasses which bears and ravens would feast on. The elk and deer population went down which made the tree population go up. Because of the increase in trees and berries the bear population went up even more. Songbirds began to return to Yellowstone and so did birds of prey. When the hawk and eagle population went up, the mouse population went down. The elk and deer began avoiding rivers more for fear of being eaten. The rivers began to regenerate making more habitats for otters and beavers. The rivers also made the land more beautiful, attracting more tourists. Trees that grew in the absence of elk and deer made the ground more stable. More grass grew back and the buffalo population increased. Beavers made habitats for otters and muskrats. The fox population went up do to the increase of population in weasels. Overall, the reintroduction of wolves reversed the trophic cascade and beautified the landscape.
Overall, the reintroduction of wolves helped the Yellowstone ecosystem. Wolves raised bear populations, decreased elk populations and stopped deer from overgrazing. Because of the reintroduction of wolves Yellowstone is a more beautiful place.
Now Yellowstone is a more beautiful place. The lush green valleys and cold rugged mountains make it, in my opinion, the best national park. It's truly wonderful that today we can observe the correction of a mistake made centuries ago. If the wolves hadn't been reintroduced to Yellowstone it would be in a pitiful state. Yellowstone is one of the most beautiful places on Earth and I think that it is a symbol that shows that the environment can still be saved. If you visit Yellowstone remember that you can make a difference in the environment today.
Do you think Yellowstone would be as beautiful today without the reintroduction of wolves?
National Parks Service
How Wolves Change Rivers by Sustainable Human