Wolves Help Shape Ecosystems

Samuel Reason | May 23rd, 2019

When wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone Park in 1995, not really too much was thought into the matter. Just that biologists wanted to ensure the species did not become extinct. However, research today shows that the wolves have helped ensure a large number of positive consequences on the ecosystem.

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We now find that beaver populations are increasing, aspen and other vegetation are all flourishing. Today you can walk through the Yellowstone park and you may actually hear the slap of a beaver’s tail hitting the water, something that was extremely rare just 10 years ago. In 1995 when the grey wolf was first reintroduced into Yellowstone Park, there was only one beaver family. Today we count over nine beaver families roaming the Yellowstone park, all because of the cascading effects a wolf pack has on the surrounding ecosystem.

Doug Smith one of the wildlife biologists in charge of Yellowstone Park, has mentioned that the reintroduction of wolves has triggered an event unfolding chain of events that researchers will take many years to truly understand.

To understand what is going on you have to go back to the 1930s when the last wolf was killed in Yellowstone park. You see even though the Yellowstone elk was still preyed on by bears, removing the wolves from the equation took off a huge amount of predatory pressure from the elks. As a result, they pushed the parks carrying the capacity to the limits and population grew tenfold.

And due to feeling so relaxed they grazed and grazed, eating up much of the park’s willows which are directly needed for species like beavers to grow positively. Now with the reintroduction of wolves, even though the elk’s population is larger, they keep on the move due to the predatory pressure. With the elk’s moving around more often and not staying put, the park’s plant life has time to grow robustly and provide enough food to herbivores.

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