Back in 1995, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in collaboration with Canadian biologists made a rather risky move. They captured 14 wolves in Canada and relocated them to Yellowstone National Park.

What made this newsworthy is the fact that wolves had been extinct in Yellowstone since 1926.

The results were more remarkable than anyone could have ever imagined!

how wolves change rivers
Source: Samiran Ghost

Over the next few years, the wolf population increased, but that was actually the least of all the surprising changes that occurred in Yellowstone.

What happened?

The entire ecosystem of the national park was tremendously transformed. In fact, the change was so extreme that even the rivers changed. How did this happen? Well, as it turns out, wolves play a pretty big role in helping to keep the ‘balance in nature’.

Over 20 years after their reintroduction into Yellowstone National Park, the wolves are healthy and howling. However, some wonder if their presence good or bad for the other wildlife.

Sure, some of their prey probably isn’t too happy about them moving in on the territory, but that’s the way nature works. Wolves tend to prey on older and sick animals, so in one sense you can see it as though they were about to die anyway.

On a happier note, the return of the wolf has helped some other carnivores to survive and even thrive! One reason is that various animals including Grizzly bears, black bears, coyotes, wolverines, foxes, and some birds will scavenge off carcasses that the wolves leave behind.

In addition, ongoing studies continue to show that the wolves are impacting the population of bigger, high profile prey, like elk and bison.

Naturally, there is a detrimental ‘chain reaction’ effect when an ecosystem is off balance. For example, the absence of wolves will allow the elk to eat all of the aspens.

Unfortunately, that leaves the beavers without the wood they depend on to build dams, which consequently leads to the meadows drying out. Then there are also the vast stands of wildflowers that depend on moist soils thrive…

You get the picture!

how wolves change rivers 2
Source: Thunderclap

Wolves keep elk herds moving, which in-turn gives the aspen and the brush willows a chance to grow. This allows for beaver dams, nesting areas for birds, more moose, and deeper waters, which means fish will survive the winter freeze.

Park Rangers regularly monitor aspen stands throughout Yellowstone – including a particular one in the Crystal Creek area of the park. Two decades ago, it was only a fraction of the size it is today.

Who would have ever thought that the introduction of 14 wolves could have such an immense effect on the ecosystem at Yellowstone? This just goes to show that our planet is undoubtedly a delicate place. That is why we must do whatever we can in order to make sure it continues to remain inhabitable.

Maintaining the natural balance is necessary not only for us and for future generations, but basically every living thing!

We love animals and believe in treating them with the utmost respect. Please share if you do, too.


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