How Wolves Can Save an Ecosystem

This amazing video describes how the wolves brought balance back to the environment…they actually changed a river!


In 1995, 14 gray wolves were released into Yellowstone National park amid 15 years of controversy called the Wolf Wars.  Today, that release has been considered a major success.

In the late 1800’s farmers and ranchers expanded into the range of wolves.  As the buffalo, the primary food source, were killed off, the wolves began to prey upon the domestic herds.  Tradition for the time period was to eliminate species that endangered livestock or human life.  By 1924 the last living gray wolves in Yellowstone had been eliminated.

Over the next 10 years, elk herds grew exponentially.  Park officials instituted a management program that consisted of culling herds by relocation and hunting by the public and officially by park rangers.  Over the next 40 years, the ecosystem became unbalanced.  Coyotes had no competition from wolves.  As populations of small animals and rodents became smaller, other small carnivores such as foxes and birds of prey began to shrink.  During this time though, the country began to understand land management and the critical balance of our ecosystems.

In 1973, the United States passed the Endangered Species Act which not only protected endangered species but also the environment in which they lived.  The planning of the reintroduction of the Rocky Mountain gray wolf began in 1980 with the creation of the Rocky Mountain Recovery Team.  When the first report was released in 1980 it was the beginning of the 15 year Wolf Wars.

To learn more about the history of this reintroduction please click here.

The video above was created by from a TED talk by George Monbiot which can be found here.

Credit for the idea comes from Katie Adams

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Rose

    I found a comment by a Yellowstone Guide who lives in Greater Yellowstone and studies wildlife for a living. I find it realistic, just as much as the video. He/she states that the video greatly exaggerates the wolf’s impact. He/she continues to state:

    “Wolves are only one reason for the decline over the Northern Range elk population, which was so grossly overpopulated that it required a shooting gallery of horrific late-season “hunts” to keep the herd only modestly in check. Other reasons include drought and harsh winters” “Elk are bouncing back and even more important, the herd is healthier than it’s ever been.
    Elk remain in the Lamar Valley, but many have indeed left — because the valley has been overgrazed by a growing bison population, not because they’ve been eaten by wolves.
    Moose are struggling because the climate has warmed. That’s a fact. Warmer temperatures in Yellowstone have enabled parasites to survive.” “Elk are thriving across wolf country.
    Wolves are neither demons nor deities. They’re just a vital part of a healthy landscape.”

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