July 3, 2022

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Did wolves really help Yellowstone?

3 min read

Asked by: Tim Abro

25 years after returning to Yellowstone, wolves have helped stabilize the ecosystem. New research shows that by reducing populations and thinning out weak and sick animals, wolves have a role in creating resilient elk herds.

Did wolves help Yellowstone?

Wolf reintroduction caused unanticipated change in Yellowstone. It rebalanced elk and deer populations, allowing the willows and aspen to return to the landscape. The end to overgrazing stabilized riverbanks and rivers recovered and flowed in new directions. Songbirds returned as did beavers, eagles, foxes and badgers.

Did wolves help restore trees in Yellowstone?

— The return of gray wolves has dramatically altered the landscape in portions of Yellowstone National Park, as new trees take root in areas where the predators have curbed the size of foraging elk herds, according to scientists in a new study.

Why did they bring wolves to Yellowstone?

As early as the 1930s, scientists were alarmed by the degradation and were worried about erosion and plants dying off. To protect declining species from the shortsightedness of man, the Endangered Species Act was created. In 1974 the gray wolf was added to the list.

Did wolves really start a trophic cascade in Yellowstone?

Gray wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park in 1995, resulting in a trophic cascade through the entire ecosystem. After the wolves were driven extinct in the region nearly 100 years ago, scientists began to fully understand their role in the food web as a keystone species.

What happened to Yellowstone after the wolves were killed?

Once the wolves were gone, elk populations began to rise. Over the next few years, conditions of Yellowstone National Park declined drastically.

What happened when wolves were removed from Yellowstone?

In the 70 years of the wolves’ absence, the entire Yellowstone ecosystem had fallen out of balance. Coyotes ran rampant, and the elk population exploded, overgrazing willows and aspens. Without those trees, songbirds began to decline, beavers could no longer build their dams and riverbanks started to erode.

Why wolves should not be reintroduced to Yellowstone?

Perceived negative impacts include ranchers incurring costs from wolves preying on livestock, reduced deer and elk populations and hunting opportunities, and threats to the safety of people and pets.

When did wolves almost go extinct?

By 1940, wolves were almost completely gone. Their inclusion on the 1973 Endangered Species Act, along with a 1995 effort to build a home for them in Yellowstone national park, has helped bring their numbers back up to 5,500 in the lower 48 states.

Why were elk populations healthier after wolves returned to Yellowstone?

New research shows that by reducing populations and thinning out weak and sick animals, wolves are helping create more resilient elk herds. For the past 12 years, elk numbers in the park’s largest herd have leveled off between about 6,000 and 8,000, instead of extreme boom-and-bust cycles due to climate fluctuations.

What would happen if wolves went extinct?

If wolves went extinct, the food chain would crumble. The elk and deer population would increase (see chart on next slide) and eat the cow and other livestock’s food. Then we, the Humans, would have a food shortage in beef and dairy and possibly shortages in other food products too.

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