The Importance of Wolves in America
What happens when an animal in an area that has been present before humans is removed? We got a firsthand look at this ecological disaster when we manually removed wolves from most of America through the practices of hunting.
When colonists first started settling in the Americas they have been trying to manipulate the landscape to fit their needs. Native predators are the most affected by this change since they compete with us for the same resources. The first wildlife law ever passed was a penny bounty on all wolves killed.
Within 100 years, wolves and other predators were extirpated from most of the United States. Farmers around the country were happy with not having to deal with these predators anymore, but subtle changes were taking place that humans would not be able to control or fix without the help of these keystone species.
If like us, you believe wolves play a key role in the balance of the nature, show your support by wearing a wolf pendant or necklace.
Some of the effects of this change in the food chain has been much more abundant animals like foxes and coyotes. Coyotes are prey for wolves, and they breed more quickly. However, without these wolves to keep the coyote populations in check they have exploded in many areas. We are slowly figuring out that coyotes are much more problematic for farmers than wolves ever have been. Deer populations have also exploded, but the deer that are now abundant are weak and smaller, since they have no selective pressure to breed for the best traits.
Yellowstone National Park is the perfect site to experiment on these local populations of wolves since it is the largest preserve in America. Since the wolf population were reintroduced in the Yellowstone area Aspen trees are starting to make a recovery. The elk in the area no longer had to deal with natural predators, so they were free to graze as much as they pleased without moving. However, many local populations of plants were suffering and starting to go extinct in the area. This had an effect on the bird diversity since certain birds only use certain trees to make their homes. When the birds disappeared insects became more abundant, and cause numerous problems for tourists and wildlife.
However, quickly after the wolves returned it was apparent that these recent trends start to slow down, and in some locales even started to reverse. Now that is has been over 25 years since the wolf has return endangered trees that humans had no idea how to save are recovering. The bird diversity is growing again, and showing varieties that have disappeared from the area for over 20 years.
Farmers in the area have a serious issue with the wolves return. They are saying their livestock is dying off. The government has responded by reimbursing the local farmers who have lost livestock due to the presence of the wolf. Hopefully, in time new techniques can be worked out to keep livestock safe from wolves. But also, keep wolves safe from farmers!