Yellowstone Park Wildlife Guide

Reintroduction Changes Ecosystem

Yellowstone-Wildlife-Wolf-11

On a quiet spring morning, a resounding “Slap!” reverberates through the air above a remote stream leading to Lake Yellowstone. Over much of the past century, it has been a rarely heard noise in the soundscape that is Yellowstone National Park, but today is growing more common-the sound of a beaver slapping its tail on the water as a warning to other beavers.

Ten years ago, when the grey wolf was reintroduced into the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, there was only one beaver colony in the park, said Doug Smith, a wildlife biologist in charge of the Yellowstone Wolf Project.

Today, the park is home to nine beaver colonies, with the promise of more to come, as the reintroduction of wolves continues to astonish biologists with a ripple of direct and indirect consequences throughout the ecosystem.

A flourishing beaver population is just one of those consequences, said Smith.

A beaver’s tale of elk
What happened, said Smith, is that the presence of wolves triggered a still-unfolding cascade effect among animals and plants-one that will take decades of research to understand.

“It is like kicking a pebble down a mountain slope where conditions were just right that a falling pebble could trigger an avalanche of change,” Smith mused.

So how did this avalanche of change work out for the beaver?

To answer that, you have to go back to the 1930s, when the wolf was killed off in Yellowstone. Even though Yellowstone elk were still preyed upon by black and grizzly bears, cougars and, to a lesser extent, coyotes, the absence of wolves took a huge amount of predatory pressure off the elk, said Smith. As a result, elk populations did very well-perhaps too well. Two things happened: the elk pushed the limits of Yellowstone’s carrying capacity, and they didn’t move around much in the winter-browsing heavily on young willow, aspen and cottonwood plants. That was tough for beaver, who need willows to survive in winter.

Healthier willow stands
This created a counterintuitive situation. Back in 1968, said Smith, when the elk population was about a third what it is today, the willow stands along streams were in bad shape. Today, with three times as many elk, willow stands are robust. Why? Because the predatory pressure from wolves keeps elk on the move, so they don’t have time to intensely browse the willow.

Indeed, a research project headed by the U.S. Geological Survey in Ft. Collins found that the combination of intense elk browsing on willows and simulated beaver cuttings produced stunted willow stands. Conversely, simulated beaver cutting without elk browsing produced verdant, healthy stands of willow. In the three-year experiment, willow stem biomass was 10 times greater on unbrowsed plants than on browsed plants. Unbrowsed plants recovered 84 percent of their pre-cut biomass after only two growing seasons, whereas browsed plants recovered only 6 percent.

With elk on the move during the winter, willow stands recovered from intense browsing, and beaver rediscovered an abundant food source that hadn’t been there earlier.

As the beavers spread and built new dams and ponds, the cascade effect continued, said Smith. Beaver dams have multiple effects on stream hydrology. They even out the seasonal pulses of runoff; store water for recharging the water table; and provide cold, shaded water for fish, while the now robust willow stands provide habitat for songbirds.

“What we’re finding is that ecosystems are incredibly complex,” he said. In addition to wolves changing the feeding habits of elk, the rebound of the beaver in Yellowstone may also have been affected by the 1988 Yellowstone fires, the ongoing drought, warmer and drier winters and other factors yet to be discovered, Smith said.

Research bonanza
Biologists are often faced with the grim task of documenting the cascade effects of what happens when a species is removed from an ecosystem, by local extirpation or even extinction. In Yellowstone, biologists have the rare, almost unique, opportunity to document what happens when an ecosystem becomes whole again, what happens when a key species is added back into the ecosystem equation.

“In the entire scientific literature, there are only five or six comparable circumstances,” Smith said. “What we’re seeing now is a feeding frenzy of scientific research.”

Scott Creel, an ecology professor at Montana State University, is hip-deep in that feeding frenzy.

“My research has been in the Gallatin Canyon,” said Creel, where elk inhabit four drainages. Wolves come and go, he said, enabling him to study what elk do in the presence and absence of wolves.

“Elk have proven to be pretty adaptable,” Creel said. “When wolves are around, they’re more vigilant and do less foraging.”

Elk move into heavy timber when wolves are around, Creel added, but return to the grassy, open meadows when wolves go away. Creel and other researchers are still working out what that means in terms of the elk’s diet and whether there are costs associated with this behavior.

Rather surprisingly, elk herd size breaks up into smaller units when wolves are around, said Creel, who had expected herd size to get bigger as a defense mechanism. “I think they’re trying to avoid encounters with wolves,” he said, by being more vigilant, moving into the timber and gathering in smaller herd units.

Food distributors
Researchers have also determined that wolves, in the recent absence of hard winters, are now the primary reason for elk mortality. Before wolf reintroduction, deep snows were the main determinant of whether an elk was going to die.

Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley determined that the combination of less snow and more wolves has benefited scavengers both big and small, from ravens to grizzly bears.

Instead of a boom and bust cycle of elk carrion availability-as existed before wolves and when winters were harder-there’s now a more equitable distribution of carrion throughout winter and early spring, said Chris Wilmers in the on-line journal Public Library of Science Biology. He added that scavengers that once relied on winter-killed elk for food now depend on wolf-killed elk. That benefits ravens, eagles, magpies, coyotes and bears (grizzly and black), especially as the bears emerge hungry from hibernation.

“I call it food for the masses,” said Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He said he was genuinely surprised by the vast web of life that is linked to wolf kills. “Beetles, wolverine, lynx and more,” he said. “It turns out that the Indian legends of ravens following wolves are true-they do follow them because wolves mean food.”

Brodie Farquhar covers natural resource issues as a freelance writer based in Lander, Wyoming.

Comment Feed

76 Responses

  1. This is quite interesting! Im in high school and writing a report on wolf reintroduction to Yellowstone, so this has helped a lot. thank you for the article!

    • I am also writing a paper on this subject. I have hit a rut though. I dont know where to go with my reasearch. Could you send me a copy of you paper for a basic outline to go off of. Thanks.

      Ben FrankeSeptember 27, 2012 @ 4:10 pmReply
  2. Too bad that the ranchers don’t see wolves as being anything other than something that kills their animals and need to be eradicated!!

  3. That’s the biggest bunch of BS I have ever heard. I don’t suppose the fire had anything to do with the beaver moving to an area that had more willows or the fact that maybe the fire finally cleaned up an area so the willows could grow again.

    Mike LarsonDecember 13, 2011 @ 4:55 pmReply
  4. If you were a rancher and it was your $$$$ that the wolves were killing, it would seem more real to you. From wolves to “fast and furious” to allowing cronies to lose 1.2 billion, the feds always know what is best for you. :(

    • More than half the “wolf kills” are actually feral dog kills, for your information.

    • Well Yes I agree but the activists already agreed to pay for their livestock if the wolves ruin it! The activists want to repeat the story in many different places like New York, Maine,and way more! Could the farmers and ranchers give them at least one chance!?

      Michelle TrajtmanAugust 30, 2012 @ 7:06 pmReply
  5. It seems like that is all ranchers care about is their money. They completely ingnore the fact that wolves were on the endangers species list. They would probally rather them be extinct. It makes no sense to have a species wiped out just so they can sell cattle.

  6. It is a shame that because so many environmentalist lie to make their point, that you cannot trust this assesment of the difference made by wolves. Especially government environmentalist are not to be trusted for the same reasons Anthony mentioned.

    I think human beings are at the top of the food chain and have as much right as any other creature on this planet to protect their habitat. Thus ranchers may need to kill to protect their way of life.

  7. Excuse me, I meant to say for the same reasons mentioned by c w, not Anthony. Anthony I think some government policies might be putting ranchers as well as small business men on the endangered species list.

  8. This just goes to show that GOD made everything for a reason and everything has a role to play and we are all invaluable in the grand scheme of things. It’s a ripple effect. Live and let live.

  9. I visited Yellowstone two years after the reintroduction of the wolves. I asked a ranger why the coyotes had collars with radio antennas and was told that the reintroduction of wolves is believed to be causing the decline of coyotes, as the wolves find coyote beds and kill their young. Question: it is now 5 or 6 years later and I’m wondering what results have been obtained regarding the wolves/coyote issue? Anyone know?

    Mary Lou TrepacDecember 14, 2011 @ 12:21 pmReply
    • Yes, it has been discovered that rehablitated wolves actually killed off about 1 / 3 of te coyote population, and is expected to be 2 / 3 but the end of next year. This effected how many rodents there are as well. The coyotes mainly prey on these rodents, and when such a drastic number of coyotes were gone, they flourished almost immediatly.

  10. After reading the article and the insuing comments , I am totally confused as to what is the better path to follow ? I now see why there is no black/white in issues , only gray ?

  11. The coyote population sky rocketed when the elk and other prey animals populations were out of control in Yellowstone. The coyotes had to make up for what what the wolves used to do before they were killed off. When the reintroduction of wolves took place the coyote population had no choice but to decline.

  12. They had a bounty on wolves for a reason.They kill not only to eat but for sport!They cost the state of Mt countless revenue,are sportsmen allowed to kill 10 elk apiece and tag one?Mt would be a better place with no wolves!

    • You idiot! Elk population has gone through the roof. The park cannot sustain this much pressure. Wolves do kill for sport, but only if food is a large supply.

    • Hunters hunt the healthiest of the bunch, ” the buck with the biggest antlers.” In killing off the healthiest there is only the less healthy and the ones with not so great genetic material left to procreate. Wolves on the other hand go for the unhealthy and the weakest, which is a good thing because they maintain a healthy population of prey. I say leave nature they way it is suppose to be because it works.

    • there is no need to respond to someone who is obviously ECOLOGICALLY IGNORANT. what makes you more important than the wolves? just because you are a human being? what makes you think that you are more superior than they are? THEY have the same RIGHT to live as we humans. FULL STOP.

      katarzynaJuly 17, 2012 @ 5:42 pmReply
  13. To all the people bashing wolves for killing cattle, think a little bigger. I’m not a biologist, but ecosystems are HUGE and VERY interconnected. If you kill off one species, a few years down the line you could lose another, then another, and pretty soon the whole ecosystem is in danger. For example, if the beavers hadn’t recovered, you might have lost the willows, meaning fewer birds, meaning fewer seeds transported, meaning less grass type plants. I’m sure your cattle would graze so well on empty dirt. :P

  14. The wolf population is very strong now, and should be managed. It is the states responsibility to make their own game laws, and not the governments place to interfere. The feds have once again overstepped their bounds, and have followed an agenda, instead of common sense. The cost of predation on livestock is overwhelming, and should be priority one, because the “human” influence on “our” ecosystem should be whats the most important. This has been conveniently left out and the “little man” should be able to protect his investment. What is the response gonna be when the wolf snatches a child, or a camper because their numbers have grown so great that hunger forces a different target for predation.

    Rory HolleyJanuary 17, 2012 @ 6:15 pmReply
  15. wow, ignorance is about as abundant as wolves in yellowstone when it comes to some of the comments on this page. start re-thinking everything and see if you can figure out why natural selection created a species such as the wolf and then maybe you will find the answer your looking for.

  16. wolves blow me every night

    ChodesicleFebruary 3, 2012 @ 11:04 amReply
  17. The elk population has not “gone through the roof”.. It is true that the total elk herd in MT has increased. That is due entirely to the growth of the herd in central and eastern MT.. particularly eastern MT. The SW and Western herds have declined precipitously. Calf survival rates have been studied and in some areas are below 16 calves per 100 cows. The Yellowstone herd was overpopulated in the 90s, reaching 22,000 animals. It had a huge impact on the riparian areas along streams. Few argue that the introduction of wolves was needed in the park. Outside of the park was and is a different issue. The Beaverhead, Madison and Gallatin ranges were hardly overpopulated with elk. A viable population which promotes interest in hunting is crucial for the state and its wildlife. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has protected over 6 million acres of habitat..with mostly donations from hunters. Hunting licensce fees pay for reistablishment of habitat for game and non game. Ask yourself, honestly, if these monies were not there, how much would be done to promote management of wilderness areas and all of the wildlife within it. In many areas, ungulate populations are in a non-sustainable decline due to wolves.

  18. wow! This is great. George bush never seems to amaze me. All these animals! I just want to gather all there furs and make a big pile in my living room and just lay there…. munching on chocolate flavored gum drops. GEE WHIZ! I found a link to this website from GODADDY.com!
    Well this was a really good book to read. 10 out of 8 stars hands down. Go patriots!
    Uncle Rudolph!

    Dick Tall WoodFebruary 9, 2012 @ 2:29 pmReply
  19. Everything in moderation. The wolves are a critical and welcome sight in the lower 48, but they have to be managed like all other species.

    When they were reintroduced, it was determined that the habitat could only support X number of wolf packs, and once we reached that point, we would allow sport hunters to pay large sums of money to help manage their numbers and fund research. The uneducated don’t realize that we passed that magic number of wolf packs years ago, and the government still has not allowed controlled sport hunting. Thus we have ranchers losing their cattle and hunting outfitters losing their jobs because there literally are no elk and deer left in places where they used to be prevalent.

    No matter what your views are on hunting, it is hard to ignore it as the most effective and sensible means of managing and conserving our wildlife. The following are examples of predator – prey relationships that have gotten lopsided because our government has failed to do their job.

    Mountain lions eat children on playgrounds in California because the lion is protected and they’ve already killed most of the desert bighorn sheep population

    Wolves are eradicating elk and deer populations all across the mountain west

    Grizzlies are killing baby moose while they’re still attached to the umbilical chord

    Black bears outnumber people in many places because the tree huggers have closed millions of acres to hunters

    Elephants are destroying precious forests at alarming rates in Africa because everyone thinks they are endangered. There are more elephants than the habitat can possibly support.

    Truly sad that we cannot figure out that there is a balance to everything. We knew the number of wolf packs that would bring balance to the region, but we ignored the research, have let them take over the ecosystem, and the reintroduction has brought controversy and hate to a great species.

    Take the time to educate yourself on the fact that SPORT HUNTING IS CONSERVATION…

    • Hmm, strange that wolves and elk have coexisted in North American for hundreds of thousands of years, and all of a sudden they need to be “managed.” How lucky for them that we got here just in time so that we could kill them, because obviously they weren’t doing just fine without us!
      Anyone who thinks that predators can completely deplete their primary prey base is a moron- if predators kill too much prey, their numbers decline and the prey have a chance to replenish their numbers. These cycles are a well-known fact of nature and have been recorded across the world.

  20. CAN I HURT EVERYONE WHO THINKS WOLVES ARE BAD?!

  21. THEY DESERVE LIFE!

  22. Well Said Jack!!!

  23. Must agree with Jack. Ecosystems should be balanced and hunting is a great way to manage animals though I don’t hunt myself.

    Besides elk and deer populations may be declining, but what about the health of the remaining populations. Aren’t they stronger, bigger and better trophies since wolves naturally kill the older, weaker, and sicker individuals of the elk population. The better genetics will get naturally selected for…

    Sometimes the population curve jumps up and down when new species are added or taken out of an ecosystem, but they always follow back into a balance. Wolves will start dying either by human hunting, cars, or starvation once their food sources (elk and deer) start getting better genetics that allow them to survive better via natural selection and predator prey relationships. It doesn’t happen over night.

    Take an animal population dynamics course at a local college or something.

  24. I believe that cattle ranches in and around Yellowstone derive large benefits from the ability to let their herds graze – for free? – on the vast tracts of government owned land in the western states. So having to deal with the reintroduction of wolves is not entirely a one way street. They appear to getting something for nothing, and maybe figuring out how to protect their possessions on their own buck without simply obliterating all wolves in the process is fair payback for the nice ride the government has been giving them in other areas. It seems that the ranchers, like the elk, are suffering from the phenomenon known as “survival naivete” or the loss of survival instincts over time as a result of having all predators conveniently eliminated.

    Douglas L MarriottApril 11, 2012 @ 4:02 pmReply
  25. I love wolves and am very happy that they are back where they belong. They have been here far longer than we have. We believe in an intelligent creator but we act like we are more intelligent than he is. How arrogant the human race is. It has been proven time and again, that when man interferes with the natural order, things go downhill. That is true from the elephants and their supposed destruction of the habitat. When man left it alone, the balance was restored. The ranchers are compensated for whatever they lose. The ecosystem’s have improved in ways that biologists didn’t expect and they are all due to the reintroduction of the wolf to its natural habitat. They are successful only one out of five, of their attempts for prey. That hardly spells killing for sport. When more than one prey is taken, all the meat eating animals benefit. We were not here first and we don’t have the right to take it upon ourselves to change what GOD created. Nature balances itself out. The predators have never wiped out species. Man has. Plains covered in bison carcasses with only the tongue and hide taken. Talk about destruction. No animal has ever rivaled the human race for that.

  26. Consider this; ranchers rely on their livestock, which rely on the earth to sustain them. When the earth is out of natural balance, more money will be lost on the rancher’s side of things. The wolf population is only around a couple thousand. So all this talk of wolves being livestock killers, and harming ranchers, is in fact, not true. If you look at the facts, you’ll find that around 30 percent of sheep killed, was by coyotes. while only about 8 percent was because of wolves. The government GIVES the money back to ranchers on any kills that can be confirmed are wolf kills. So don’t say ‘poor ranchers’. Environmentalists aren’t ‘liars’. if you’ve looked into their salaries, it’s not exactly something you would want to retire on. On top of that, it isn’t a popular career choice. Too many people would rather complain, and talk smack about you, than they would support you. What most people don’t seem to get is this; we don’t own the earth. But we should take care of it. I saw on the front page of a hunting magazine over the weekend, an article about how wolves are rampaging the states, eating a deer a day, stealing all the good game. What a load of bs. Who has the nerve to publish flat out lies like that? Wolves are growing at an incredibly slow rate, and wolves can go, and do go weeks without making a kill. plus they feed on the weak and the old, not prize game. So who is really full of bs?

  27. I guess my question to all of you saying WE have to maintain a balance is when were you put in charge? The insiduous populations in every ecosystem has maintained life for millions of years before WE came along. So once again when were we given the power of God, or for the Non-religous, the power of Mother Nature? There are millions of non-bias research studies that would undeniably prove that humans consumed by all our greed and our lust for power are the ones who keep messing up “balance”. If you want to take matters into your own hands thats fine leave your guns at home. Go out their bare handed and even matched and do what you got to do.

    Justin SApril 29, 2012 @ 3:45 pmReply
  28. I’m in junior high and I’m doing a report on if predators like wolves and bears should be reintroduced to places like Yellow stone so if you could send me more information it would be great.

    AustinMay 15, 2012 @ 9:19 amReply
  29. im in 10th grade and like austin, i have to do a report on reintroduction of the wolves to yellowstone. i could really use some help on this subject. im sort of lost on how or where to find the info i need

    jessicaMay 15, 2012 @ 1:04 pmReply
  30. I’m in elementary school and I’m doing a PSA on should wolves be able to return to yellowstone national park so please. Sen me an reply most likely yes and give me some reasons

  31. The government only pays ranchers for confirmed wolf kills. Ranchers lose on the rest of the cattle, sheep, etc… As for wolves repopulating at a slow rate. Check the facts. Wolves saw a 15% increase in Montana with a hunting season and that wasn’t including the pups born this spring. The fact is wolves do have a place in this world, but with human population the way it is something has got to give. In this case it is going to be the wolves. When the government introduced wolves into Wyoming, Idaho and Montana (including Yellowstone Park) the biologists said that Idaho could handle 150 wolves and similar in Montana and Wyoming. Now the wolves have reached 5 times that number in each state by even the lowest counts. What everyone needs to understand is there is no easy answer to all of this, but whether you are prowolf or not, they need to be managed. The only way to manage wolves is hunting and trapping. I have seen the destruction wolves can do to a herd of animals. They do NOT eat all the kill and a lot of the time leave an animal to slowly bleed to death while the wolf moves on to its next victim.

    JackieMay 23, 2012 @ 2:33 amReply
  32. I agree with what Jackie said. I have personally seen a pack of wolves go after a herd of elk. I watched as the pack of wolves took down 3 elk out of the herd. The wolves did not eat the elk or even kill them. They wounded the elk enough to just kill them slowly. Oh ya and those wolves left their kill they never came back to feast off them. It has become a game for the wolves. They have started to kill for fun now. You can say im wrong, but i have seen it personally. And the Reintroduction of wolves would have been fine if they would have reintroduced the North American wolf back into yellowstone. Instead we reintroduced the CANADIAN wolf. They do not belong here. Killing is easy for them because they are literally the same size as an elk calf. These wolves have to be managed, if not we will continue to see Elk & Deer populations decrease at a rapid pace until we see them on the endangered list. A lot of us Live in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, and we have seen the devistation that wolves have caused to animal numbers. It is sad to see. I know some of you have probably never seen a wolf in the wild. So for those of you who haven’t i would say come out to Idaho, Montana, or Wyoming and watch the wolves and you will understand where we are coming from when we say it is vital that we manage the wolf population.

  33. i dont know, every people that against the wolf here seemed a bit like, elaborated? its just on and on i saw the same comments with the same style that looks like un-original, looked like copying other comments and claim it as a personal experience the “let it bleed slowly to death while moving to other kill” well im not underestimating the wolves as un-capable to do so but people like to anthropomorphize the wolves, there is no easy death to prey animal in the nature, be it by wolf, lion, or tiger, they bleed and choked to death, its natural… i hope it isnt the case though…

    well i dont know about wolves but my experience with tigers need only bamboo fence and barbwire to protect our cattle and buffalo, well it need extra effort to bring them back after letting them eat in the open grass but it helps to keep my tummy flat…

    an industrial scale with thousands of cattle might be a problem tough…

    well, good luck solving the problem…

  34. sure cole, I’ve bee a wildlife guide in YNP for years and have never seen such a phenomena as you describe…. I’d really like to have you guide me to where you’ve seen so I can have this experience. I’ve seen wolves take a cow and calf and they always eat until the bears chase them away…. Actually I think you’re full of crap.

  35. Hi there! I just want to offer you a big thumbs up for the great info you’ve got here on this post. I will be coming back to your web site for more soon.

  36. First of all the numbers are wrong. There were about 4500 elk left inside of Yellowstone after managers got thru shooting them in 1968. There msot certainly are NOT 12,000+ elk left now. There were 4200 in Yellowstone and Montana, less than 2000 of those were actually counted inside Yellowstone.

    DisgustedJuly 12, 2012 @ 10:50 amReply
  37. Well, let’s see here….89,000 Elk 1992 verses the Elk population now about, near or over 150,000. Yellowstone Park before the Wolves were introduced back lost a lot of small wild life. Song birds, beavers, insects. Streams were corroding, plant life eaten away due to Elk and Deer. Nothing to keep them moving about. The Wolves came and habitat perked right up. Beaver population came back, song birds, insects, plant life began to grow again. And you say BS?. I say BS to you not able to get your hunters kill. You are hunting what is on a Wolfs diet. Ya’ll hunt so damn much the Wolf can’t get a decent kill have the time. I say instead of taking the Wolf of the endangered list, lesson ya’lls hungint times a year. Make is less. I bet it would be way better for you hunters, farmers, government handing out our hard workin money to support the farming industry, wild life will be the norm. Hell, may have more money in states to get those off of unempoyment. Ya’ll are milkin us with your cryin and whinen. Get over it, you aint ment to kill all God’s creatures. And the figures are in a whole, not just in Yellowstone Park.

  38. Well they are paying them too much for not being 100% certain it is the Wolf doing the killing. They see a few here or there and all of a sudden it is the Wolfs fault for live stock lost. Wild cats, coyotes, bears, raccons, snakes, rats, wild pig/boar…so on that kills livestock. Sneak in at night kills the chickens eat the eggs. The smaller ones go for the legs of cows, calves, sheep…once down many go for the throat and head area or even the stomach or bowl area (the ass). Some farmers have stated without certainty but speculate it is the Wolf because they seen one around. Hell, domestic cats and dogs attack livestock. Ya’ll are costing many people in your communites money and they don’t even see it. What a shame.

  39. Those aganist the reintroduction, need to come to the realization that these animals were here BEFORE WE WERE!!! All of this was their land before we destroyed it… How do we as humans have the right to incrouch on what is theirs but they can not do the same to us tic for tac.. Just food for thought..

    Ashley85July 23, 2012 @ 7:50 amReply
  40. I realize that none of what I am saying truly makes a difference, however, we have screwed up the natural balance of things. Now the only way to manage all of the wildlife is through man managing things, like it or not. I am a hunter and outdoorsman and and dont want to see the extermination of any species, and no true outdoorsman should. I am however convinced that this is just another instance of people from the east and left coast of getting involved in things without firsthand experience and trying to tell locals what is “best”. I hunt in several western states and live in nebraska, and have seen the decimation of elk, especially in montana due mostly to the wolf. I am tired of hearing that they only take down the sick and old. The vast majority of elk killed are bulls due to their solitary lifestyle (majority of the year). Wolves also have discovered that the easiest way to get a meal is to get the cows while birthing. They have also nearly wiped out the moose population, with only around a hundred estimated remaining in the park. According to a friend of mine who is a park biologist (I can give anyone doubting this his name and info through P.M.) that the northern elk herd of yellowstone is down to around 1200 head. The only thing we can do is reduce the number of wolves, or once there is not enough game to eat they will and have turned to livestock. (do you really think that they will starve versus eating cattle or sheep?) I do believe the most of us ranchers feed the majority of the wolf lovers out there. We might not need to wipe out the wolves, but like all of our wildlife in the world, man has messed things up and now we have to live with the consequences. As much as the environmentalist want it to be, things can’t go back the way they were. (evolution) IF YOU HAVE AN OPINION ON THIS, YOU CAN’T BASE IT FROM A PICTURE YOU HAVE SEEN OF A WOLF OR FROM A HIWAY IN THE PARK. GO TO THE BACKCOUNTRY AND RANCHES AROUND THE AREA AND SPEND TIME THERE TO SEE THE IMPACTS OF AN OVERPOPULATED PREDATOR.

  41. Just another thought. Without sportsmans dollars and help many of the species we love today would be endangered or extinct, including: (look up what has been done)
    Ducks and Geese
    Deer
    Elk
    Wild Turkey
    I am sure there are more, but you get the point. Sportsmen protect land for wildlife and reintroduce them to places that are lacking.
    I am a current member of NWTF, WU, PF, RMEF and the NRA and can say that we have done more for conservation than all of the anti-hunting organizations. My Family eats wildgame nearly 50% of the time and this could not be possible without without the help of these groups, and I thank all other members that are true sportsmen as the name is much more than just a killer as the “anti’s” want you to believe

  42. The only good wolf is a dead wolf. I favor the complete eradication of all wolf species everywhere except in a few small controlled areas across the globe. Let them roam freely on the island of Madagascar.

    JohnnyRebelSeptember 29, 2012 @ 8:14 pmReply
    • The only good man is a dead man who is hateful and cruel to others in his world. Find something better to do with your time. Pro Wolf Forever

      Big Bad WolfFebruary 21, 2013 @ 3:23 pmReply
  43. I think it’s important for people to understand why we need wolves in Yellowstone, as well as why they need to be managed. Wolves and elk have lived along side each other for hundreds of years, but now humans are here. Yes, I would like to see all animals free, but it’s not realistic anymore. We need to have conservation, but in managed populations. I also think everyone has a point. :)

  44. For anyone out there who is required to write a report, or paper, or something else of that nature focused on the history of Yellowstone and relating to ecology, this is the article

  45. I just don’t get why the ranchers can’t protect their cattle/livestock from the wolves by putting up fences with barbwire? The ranchers choose to live in this beautiful wild country!

  46. hi

  47. booo

  48. There is a reason we erradicated wolves from these areas when we moved Westward. They kill livestock, depriving American ranchers of much needed cash flow, an average of $800 per head of cattle. Six wolves eat 800 pounds of meat a month. You do the math. Enviromentalists say we need to let nature do it’s thing but they forget the hard working Americans who have lived there for centuries, earning a living off the land.

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. [...] Out west, having had their primary predator, the wolf, removed, elk became a more stationary animal. Without having to be constantly on the move, they overgrazed their habitat, wiping out stands of willow and aspen, denuding riverbanks, moving on only when they had used up their food source. This loss of aspen and willow deprived beaver of food and dam-building material, which led to beaver populations diminishing, a loss that undoubtedly had cascading effects on down the line, as the story here illustrates. [...]

  2. [...] and weather patterns etc in Ireland. Science is hard data and not some selective viewpoint. Yellowstone National Park: Wolf Reintroduction Changes Ecosystem Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley determined that the combination of [...]

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