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 Wolves in Yellowstone

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Brief History

The Yellowstone wolf reintroduction began in 1995, initiated by Douglas Smith; a wolf biologist. Wildlife officals initiated the reintroduction with 14 wolves, arriving from Jasper Park in Alberta, Canada. Lamar Valley became the ideal location in Yellowstone for the wolves due to it's sufficient expanse and resources.

The Change Wolves Made

When Yellowstone was founded in 1872, people had the intention of providing a vast landscape for all the native wildlife on it to thrive. Prior to their reintroduction, plant habitat in the park was sparse. Ungulates (prominently elk) overgrazed which resulted in insufficient plant habitat. Beavers, a keystone species, were unable to construct dams–then resulting in inefficient riverflow.

 

This had a negative impact on other native species. Following the successful introduction of wolves, plants and various species that disappeared from the park prior to wolf reintroduction were naturally restored. Science has proven that wolves create a trophic cascade that creates a ripple effect on their surrounding environments and inhabitants.  The leftover carcassess from wolf kills sustained food for scavengers such as coyotes, raccoons, badgers, foxes, ravens, and eagles. Once the willow trees refurbished, it provided shade for cold water fish, and materials for beavers to build dams.

Our Research

This summer (2023) three members of the Conserving the Wolves team set out on an adventure. One of the many events that took place on their journey was visiting Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park, where wolves are typically spotted by wolf watchers, tourists, and biologists. We were also accompanied by two Yellowstone experts that took us to Lamar Valley. Currently, there is a pack of 30 wolves living in Yellowstone--consisting of other wolf packs joining one another. Yellowstone was spectacular.

 

We were lucky enough to see a grizzly bear though our scope though near a herd of bison. We also saw plenty of deer, bison, and birds of prey. We will return sometime in the winter so we can see the animals and possibly wolves easier.  

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Image credit: NPS

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