Impacts of Gray Wolf Reintroduction
to Yellowstone National Park
History of the Greater Yellowstone wolf restoration
How the Wolves were restored to the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem-
By Ralph Maughan
Reposted from The Wildlife News
Our Yellowstone National Park's Lady Wolf, 06
In 2006, a wolf was born in Yellowstone who would become a legend in her own time. For more about the 06 Female and the debate surrounding wolves in Yellowstone, be sure to check out Jeff Hull's article in Outside Magazine http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/nature/Out-of-Bounds-The-Death-of-832F-Yellowstones-Most-Famous-Wolf.html?page=all
and Nate Rott's special report for NPR. http://apps.npr.org/wolves/
Producer: Joe Rosenberg
In 2006, a wolf was born in Yellowstone who would become a legend in her own time. For more about the 06 Female and the debate surrounding wolves in Yellowstone, be sure to check out Jeff Hull's article in Outside Magazine http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/nature/Out-of-Bounds-The-Death-of-832F-Yellowstones-Most-Famous-Wolf.html?page=all
and Nate Rott's special report for NPR. http://apps.npr.org/wolves/
Producer: Joe Rosenberg
Reposted from Island Press Field Notes:
WOLVES IN PARADISE?
YELLOWSTONE’S WOLVES IN TRANSITION
YELLOWSTONE’S WOLVES IN TRANSITION
The Lamar Canyon pack in 2012.
Photo by Doug McLaughlin, used with permission.
August 12, 2014 · by Cristina Eisenberg · in Biodiversity & Wildlife, Cristina Eisenberg, Ecosystems
When Congress listed the gray wolf (Canis lupus) as endangered under the new Endangered Species Act in 1974,
http://ipfieldnotes.org/an-imperfect-safety-net-for-carnivore-conservation/ it set the stage for a famous ecological experiment. Working within the Northern Rocky Mountain Recovery Area (NRM), which included Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, the federal government began to create a recovery plan. The plan called for wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho.
In 1995, the reintroduced wolves hit the ground running. Scientists were on the ground, carefully documenting the ecological effects wolves sent rippling throughout the region as they restored this ecosystem from top to bottom. The subsequent recovery of willows (Salix spp.) and aspens (Populus tremuloides) that elk (Cervus elaphus) had been eating to death in the absence of wolves provides a powerful ecological lesson.
The wolf reintroduction was an unprecedented success. By 2002 wolves had met recovery goals of at least 300 individuals and 30 breeding pairs in the three NRM states for at least three consecutive years. Since 2011, wolves have been delisted and hunted annually in the NRM.
Because Yellowstone wolves sometimes wander outside the park, the 2012/2013 wolf hunt, combined with other causes of mortality, caused a 12 percent drop in their population. Ecologists agree that this level of mortality is biologically sustainable in a species as resilient as the wolf. However, the impacts of the wolf hunt go far beyond numbers.
Before the hunt, Yellowstone’s wolves were one of the few unexploited North American wolf populations. They essentially lived in wolf paradise, with abundant food and little conflict with humans. The wolf hunt changed everything. Because hunting these wolves outside the park affects their behavior inside the park, the hunt ended the invaluable opportunity to study an unexploited wolf population as a scientific control against which exploited populations could be compared.
By hunting wolves we disrupt their society and destabilize their packs. Packs may split into smaller packs made up of younger animals, with a greater influx of unrelated individuals. And younger, less-complex packs may kill cattle or approach humans for food. The Lamar Canyon pack, formerly one of the most stable and viewable park packs, provides a case in point. When the gun smoke cleared from the 2012/13 wolf hunt, this pack’s story provides a cautionary tale about the unintended consequences of hunting wolves immediately outside national parks.
The '06 Female and Her Mate, 755M. Photo by Doug McLaughlin, used with permission.
Before the 2012/13 hunt, an illustrious pair led the Lamar Canyon pack: wolf 832, called the “’06 female” (for her birth year) and wolf 755M. Pack leadership also included wolf 754M, the beta male (755M’s brother), who’d vied for 832F’s admiration and then helped the alpha pair care for their pups. This trio engendered tremendous public affection.
http://ipfieldnotes.org/journey-lessons-from-a-peripatetic-wolf/ Capable of taking down an elk by herself, ’06 quickly became a legend. She ranged widely through the Lamar Valley, yet she seldom left the park.
Wolf 754M. Photo by Doug McLaughlin, used with permission.
Tragedy struck in November 2012, when 754M met a hunter’s bullet in Wyoming, outside the park. The next month, the ’06 female also went down in the wolf hunt. Their entirely legal deaths played out publicly and created public outrage. But that was only the beginning of the trouble.
When breeding season began in late December, one of ’06’s daughters became the new alpha. However, because she was the alpha male’s daughter, she wouldn’t breed with him. And so now 755M, the alpha male, a great hunter with the most social experience, went looking for a mate. This left the Lamar Canyon pack unstable and leaderless.
By late January, the Lamar Canyon pack was going through major changes. Two of 755M’s daughters had attracted mates from other packs. Meanwhile, 755M, who’d been wandering, had found a mate, 759F from Mollie’s pack, and returned to his pack with her. But pack dynamics had shifted in his absence, so what he returned to was actually partly his old pack with some new wolves. The new males turned on 759F, killed her, and ran 755M off. By April 2013, 755M’s daughters were both pregnant and preparing for birth, and the pack was spending lots of time outside the park. Biologists occasionally observed 755M in Lamar Valley with two other wolves.
Eventually ’06’s daughters had their pups. While at first this seemed an example of wolf resilience, further events demonstrate how ’06’s and 754’s deaths disrupted this pack’s social stability. In August 2013, wolf 820F, ’06’s two-year-old daughter, left the pack under hostile pressure from her older sisters. That she’d spent her entire life in the park and was very used to people led her to make a foolish choice. She started hanging out in Jardine, Montana. When she turned to raiding chicken coops for food, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) killed her.
The above wolf deaths and others occurred because, for the 2012/13 hunting season, FWP removed the partial buffer outside the park where wolves couldn’t be hunted. After the deaths of the ’06 female and 754M in late 2012, the FWP Commission tried to close areas adjacent to the park to hunting and trapping because too many Yellowstone wolves were being killed. When anti-wolf groups sued, FWP removed the buffer. This left park wolves vulnerable in places like Gardiner, Montana, an elk wintering ground immediately outside Yellowstone. This July, Congressman Peter DeFazio requested a wolf buffer zone around Yellowstone.
In 2014, the Lamar Canyon pack denned and produced pups. 755M remains a lone wolf. While the Lamar Canyon pack’s ultimate fate remains uncertain, its short-term response to the wolf hunt demonstrates both resilience and great instability in the face of challenges. A reinstated buffer would return these and other Yellowstone wolves to being a protected research population and fully realizing their ecological role.
About Cristina Eisenberg
Tags: biodiversity, conservation, endangered species, population, resilience, wildlife, wolves
May 2. 2014
Reposted from Defenders of Wildlife Blog
See the study here:
Trophic cascades occur when predators in a food web suppress the abundance and/or alter traits (e.g., behavior) of their prey, thereby releasing the next lower trophic level from predation (or herbivory if the intermediate trophic level is a herbivore).
For example, if the abundance of large piscivorous fish is increased in a lake, the abundance of their prey, zooplanktivorous fish, should decrease, large zooplankton abundance should increase, and phytoplankton biomass should decrease.
This theory has stimulated new research in many areas of ecology. Trophic cascades may also be important for understanding the effects of removing top predators from food webs, as humans have done in many places through hunting and fishing activities.
A Top Down Cascade is a trophic cascade where the food chain or food web is disrupted by the removal of a top predator, or a third or fourth level consumer. On the other hand, a bottom up cascade occurs when a primary producer, or primary consumer is removed, and there is a diminishment of population size through the community. An example could include Paine's study from the University of Washington, where he removed several species in different plots along the North-Western United States coast line, and realized that Pisaster, a common starfish, when removed, created a top-down cascade which involved a surge in barnacle and mussel population, but a decrease in the populations of chitons, limpets, and whelks. This led to the conclusion that Pisaster was a keystone species in that food web.
Trophic cascades also impact the biodiversity of ecosystems, and when examined from that perspective wolves appear to be having multiple, positive cascading impacts on the biodiversity of Yellowstone National Park. These impacts include:
Scavengers, such as ravens (Corvus corax), bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), and even grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis), are likely subsidized by the carcasses of wolf kills.
In the northern range, the relative abundance of six out of seven native songbirds which utilize willow was found to be greater in areas of willow recovery as opposed to those where willows remained suppressed.
Bison (Bison bison) numbers in the northern range have been steadily increasing as elk numbers have declined, presumably due to a decrease in interspecific competition between the two species.
Importantly, the number of beaver (Castor canadensis) colonies in the Park has increased from one in 1996 to twelve in 2009.
The recovery is likely due to the increase in willow availability, as they have been feeding almost exclusively on it. As keystone species, the resurgence of beaver is a critical event for the region. The presence of beavers has been shown to positively impact streambank erosion, sediment retention, water tables, nutrient cycling, and both the diversity and abundance of plant and animal life among riparian communities.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Once spread across much of the North American continent, wolves have been largely eradicated by government predator “control” programs and ranchers to facilitate widespread livestock production on western landscapes.
Since that time, conservationists have learned of the invaluable role wolves contribute to western landscapes and wildlife as “keystone species”. Studies demonstrate that wolves promote a “trophic cascade” whereby wolves’ interactions with prey engenders a diversity of plant and animal life within the ecological communities that wolves inhabit. Often cited is wolves’ contribution to aspen and willow regrowth as the top-level predator’s presence on a landscape alters elk and other browsing ungulates’ behavior, preventing them from over-grazing by pushing elk off of riparian areas (stream-banks) and across landscapes more regularly. The effect is more grasses, aspen, and willows which makes for better critical habitat for beaver (another “keystone species”), birds, insects, and others. In turn, fish can benefit, other predators that depend on fish benefit, etc. The restorative contribution “cascades” throughout the natural community as habitat becomes more complex providing for more diversity of fish and wildlife.
Wolves hunt elk in Central Idaho
Copyright Photo Lynne K. Stone
Similarly, wolves have been shown to bring coyote populations into balance. In turn, the mice and rodents that coyotes prey upon become more abundant for foxes who fill in the ecological niche once uniquely enjoyed by coyotes.
Because wolves had been eradicated in the past, we’re just now beginning to test and understand many of the ideas scientists had posited about what the re-introduction of wolves would mean for western watersheds and wildlife communities.
Please follow @wildadvocate to learn more and support Western wildlife and watersheds.
Located in Wyoming and a small part of both Montana and Idaho, Yellowstone National Park is a 2.2 million acre ecosystem that is a part of the more expansive Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Area. The latter is over 20 million acres.
In Yellowstone National Park, Yellowstone Lake is a natural lake and is the largest high altitude mountain lake in the United States at 7,733 feet above sea level.
The lake harbors six fish species: cutthroat trout, longnose dace, redside shiners, lake chub, longnose suckers, and lake trout. The former two are native; the latter four were introduced in the mid-1900s.
Long nose Suckers
The original lake was 200 feet higher than the present-day lake, extending northward across Hayden Valley to the base of Mount Washburn. It is thought that Yellowstone Lake originally drained south into the Pacific Ocean via the Snake River. The lake currently drains north from its only outlet, the Yellowstone River, at Fishing Bridge. The elevation of the lake's north end does not drop substantially until LeHardy Rapids. Therefore, this spot is considered the actual northern boundary of Yellowstone Lake.
TROPHIC CASCADE AND
GRAY WOLF REINTRODUCTION INTO
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK
Once prevalent throughout the Park, the gray wolf, Canis lupus was eventually exterminated in the early 1900s. A brief summary of the reintroduction of this species in the mid 1990s is provided along with a description of some of the ecological consequences of this action.
Another example of how the presence of wolves may be affecting the distribution and abundance of species is the regrowth of certain tree species in Yellowstone. When wolves were absent from Yellowstone National Park, the other predators that killed elk (shown on the previous page) were not able to control the population growth of elk.
As a result, willow, cottonwood and aspen stands were heavily browsed by the elk. When wolves arrived, increased predatory pressure on the elk occurred. Some scientists believe that this forced elk to leave woodland areas and move into open habitat in order to be able to better see predatory wolf packs. This anti-predatory behavior by elk reduced browsing pressure on the trees, thereby enhancing the ability of these trees to produce new trees.
However, recent research indicates that while wolves have increased predation on elk, other factors helped to promote the growth of these trees.
This type of impact on a trophic level, lower on the food chain, that was created by the introduction of wolves is called a trophic cascade.
While the exact causative agent(s) responsible for the regrowth of aspen in Yellowstone is still being studied, another ecological benefit from this plant regrowth is the resources it provides to other species.
1. Beaver have returned to Yellowstone National Park since the abundance of aspens has provided beaver with food, as well as a wood for their dams and lodges.
2. Beaver ponds have created habitat for aquatic and semiaquatic life (e.g., mink, muskrats, ducks, geese, etc.).
3. The shade conditions on nearby streams (and lakes) has helped to cool water so that it will be more conducive to trout.
4. Soil stabilization by aspen trees has reduced erosion and enhanced water quality.
Elk foraged on certain species of trees such as aspen (depicted in the photograph). This reduced the ability of the trees to survive and repopulate the forest. Erosion along streams reduced water quality.
When wolves hunted in these forests, elk were vulnerable to capture. Therefore, they moved to open fields where their ability to see approaching wolves improved. Aspens were able to survive and regenerate, thereby encouraging the population growth of these trees.
All content below, unless noted, is courtesy R.J.Hayden.
Please follow him at @Wulalowe on Twitter, and visit Seven Dog Winter: http://sevendogwinter.blogspot.com/
to learn of the environment, wildlife, natural resource conservation, and life in the great outdoors
ReBlogged from for Biodiversity's Sake:
RIPARIAN WILLOW DYNAMICS
Associate Editor commentary
Posted on April 2, 2014
by Lauren Sandhu
Large carnivores have succumbed to human pressure worldwide. They have been hunted to near or complete local extinction or their food sources have been reduced drastically. A recent review1 shows their continuing decline throughout the world. The review also highlighted the direct and indirect roles that large carnivores play in structuring trophic cascades, and the sometimes unexpected consequences of reducing numbers of these apex predators. For example, the large reduction in numbers of lions and leopards in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa has resulted in increasing numbers of olive baboons – a mesopredator – that not only prey upon ungulates, but also affect human welfare because they raid crops, which also forces families to take children out of school to help guard fields. (2)
Coexistence between humans and large carnivores was never an easy accommodation, even when the human population was much lower. Restoring large carnivores as a means of reinstating trophic cascades meets resistance because of perceived threats to human livelihood. A clear example of this is in the western United States where grey wolves were hunted to extinction by 1960 because of perceived threats to livestock. Their reintroduction to Yellowstone National Park in the mid-1990s was controversial and remains so: there is growing pressure to hunt wolves, which occupy only a small fraction of their former range in the United States. (3)
Studies in Yellowstone National Park since wolves were reintroduced have highlighted their role in trophic cascades1. Wolves have direct effects by competing with another predator (coyote) and by preying upon elk, which are abundant in the Park. This in turn has indirect effects; for example reductions in the number of elk has resulted in reduced browsing pressure on aspen trees. (1,4) However, attribution of changes in vegetation in Yellowstone National Park solely to the reintroduced wolves is controversial. (4)
*A new study adds to a view of complex interactions that drive the regeneration of forests in Yellowstone. Kristin Marshall and co-authors examined the regeneration of riparian willow forests in the northern portion of the Park during a 30-year period, about half of which was before wolves were reintroduced to the Park. Herbivory by elk, with their numbers affected by wolves, was one of the predictors of willow regeneration. However, climatic and landscape factors were also important. Willows had greatest height growth rates, hence a greater ability to escape the “browse trap”6, if they were in parts of the landscape where moisture was least likely to be limiting, and there were episodes of willow recruitment that resulted from a series of years with above-average precipitation. A nuanced view seems to be emerging from this well-studied system that the trophic cascades associated with wolves, both in terms of their direct and indirect effects, need to take account of the the interactive effects of other predators1, other mammalian browsers5, climatic, landscape, disturbances such as fire, and historic influences.
Associate Editor, Journal of Ecology
1 Ripple WJ, Estes JA, Beschta RL, Wilmers CC, Ritchie EG, Hebbelwhite M, Berger J, Elmhagen B. Letnic M, Nelson MP, Schmitz OJ, Smith DW, Wallach AD, Wirsing AJ 2014 Status and ecological effects of the world’s largest carnivores. Science 343, 1241484
2 Prugh LR, Stoner CJ, Epps CW, Bean WT, Ripple WJ, Laliberté AS, Brashares JS 2009 The rise of the mesopredator. BioScience 59, 779–791.
3 Morell V 2014 Science behind plan to ease wolf protection is flawed, panel says. Science 343, 719.
4 Marris E 2014 Legend of the wolf. Nature 507, 158–160.
5 Marshall KN, Cooper DJ, Hobbs NT 2014 Interactions among herbivory, climate, topography and plant age shape riparian willow dynamics in northern Yellowstone National Park, USA. Journal of Ecology, doi: 10.1111/1365-2745.12225
6 Staver AC, Bond WJ 2014 Is there a ‘browse trap’? Dynamics of herbivore impacts on trees and grasses in an African savannah. Journal of Ecology, doi: 10.1111/1365-2745.12230
Interactions among herbivory, climate, topography and plant age shape riparian willow dynamics in northern Yellowstone National Park, USA
Kristin N. Marshall1,2,*, David J. Cooper1,2 andN. Thompson Hobbs1,3,4
Article first published online: 7 MAR 2014
© 2014 The Authors. Journal of Ecology © 2014 British Ecological Society
Issue Cover image for Vol. 102 Issue 2
Journal of Ecology
Early View (Online Version of Record published before inclusion in an issue)
Understanding how the environmental context modifies the strength of trophic interactions within food webs forms a central challenge in community ecology.
Here, we demonstrate the necessity of considering the influence of climate, landscape heterogeneity and demographics for understanding trophic interactions in a well-studied food web in Yellowstone National Park, USA. We studied riparian willow (Salix spp.) establishment and stem growth reconstructed from tree rings on the northern range of Yellowstone over a 30-year period that included the reintroduction of a top predator, the grey wolf (Canis lupus).
We used climate variables (annual precipitation, stream flow and growing season length), herbivore abundance and landscape descriptors (elevation and topographic wetness index) to predict establishment and growth processes through time before and after the reintroduction of wolves. We fitted Bayesian hierarchical models to establishment data and time series of individual stem heights from 1980 to 2008.
Explaining variability in establishment required models with stream flow, annual precipitation and elk abundance.
Climate, trophic and landscape covariates interacted with stem age to determine stem height and growth rate through time. Growth rates of most stems ages (2+) declined after the reintroduction of wolves. However, stem growth rates naturally declined with age, and the decline we observed was coincident with faster growth rates for the youngest stems. Mean stem heights at age have remained relatively stable through time for most age classes. Estimated effects of landscape topography had approximately the same magnitude of effect on stem growth rate at age as elk abundance.
Synthesis. We show that the effects of modification of a food web cannot be predicted by studying trophic dynamics in isolation. No single driver explained patterns of willow establishment and growth over the past three decades in Yellowstone. Instead, interactions among trophic forces, interannual climate variability and landscape topography together shaped how the ecosystem responded to perturbations. Top-down effects of ungulates on riparian woody vegetation must be considered in the context of plant age, and climate and landscape heterogeneity.
Bayesian state-space;beaver;elk;herbivory;plant population and community dynamics;riparian vegetation;tree rings;trophic cascade;willow;wolf;Yellowstone
ReBlogged from White Wolf Pack
YELLOWSTONE HIT BY
IN 29 YEARS
A Yellowstone earthquake today 2014 struck Montana. A Yellowstone earthquake today March 30, 2014 was the strongest to strike since 1980. Officials are now asking local residents for assistance with the matter.
Officials report that a 4.8 magnitude Yellowstone earthquake struck just after 8:15 am MDT today. The quake was shallow. It started twenty-three miles east of West Yellowstone and sixty-five miles southwest of Bozeman. It was eighty-six miles northeast of Rexburg, Idaho as well.
Thereafter officials issued a news statement describing the activity. The University of Utah Seismograph Stations reports that the “epicenter of the magnitude 4.8 shock was located 4 miles north-northeast of Norris Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. This earthquake is part of a series of earthquakes that began in this area on Thursday.” They added “As of 8:15 am today, this series has included at least 25 earthquakes in addition to the main shock, with the largest of magnitude 3.1. The magnitude 4.8 main shock was reported felt in Yellowstone National Park and in the towns of West Yellowstone and Gardiner, Montana.”
Officials are asking the public to submit details to a survey website. “Anyone who felt the earthquake is encouraged to fill out a survey form on either the Seismograph stations web site: www.quake.utah.edu or the U.S. Geological Survey web site: earthquake.usgs.gov.”
USGS tells news that Sunday’s quake was significant. Namely it was “the largest earthquake at Yellowstone since February 22, 1980, and occurred near the center of a region of recent ground uplift described in a YVO Information Statement on February 18, 2014. The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory has been tracking this uplift episode for about 7 months.” Reps added “seismicity in the general region of the uplift has been elevated for several months. A previous period of uplift in this area occurred between 1996 and 2003, and it was also accompanied by elevated seismicity.”
Issues may include Basin changes. “A USGS field team is in Yellowstone and will visit the area near the earthquake’s epicenter today. The team will look for any surface changes that the earthquake may have caused, and for possible effects to the hydrothermal system at Norris Geyser Basin.” But they added “Based on the style and location of today’s earthquake, at this time YVO sees no indication of additional geologic activity other than continuing seismicity.”___________________________________________
YELLOWSTONE GRIZZLY BEAR
Reposted from CIRCA
February 28, 2014 12:11AM
Government-sponsored researchers have determined that the federally protected grizzly bear population in Yellowstone is not in danger, as asserted by some advocates and scientists.
Populations of Yellowstone grizzly bears are currently strong, with numbers estimated at 700, said researchers on the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study team. Wildlife officials will soon decide whether to remove Yellowstone grizzlies from protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
"The (grizzly bear) population growth has slowed down in the last decade, but is by all means a robust population right now. Critiques in scientific efforts can be constructive. Because of this critique, we looked very hard at our own data … It basically confirms what we had seen before."
FRANK VAN MANEN, ECOLOGIST
"The grizzly bear is arguably the most beautiful and powerful symbol of our wild heritage. It is vital they make a full recovery so they don't slide back towards extinction."
BONNIE RICE, SIERRA CLUB MONTANA
Environmentalists criticized a recommendation by top wildlife officials in Dec. 2013 to delist the bears. The decision was previously defeated in court because climate changes had reduced whitebark pines, which bears depend upon for food.
On Jan. 29 a Wyoming man was found guilty by jury of killing a grizzly bear. The animal is federally protected under the Endangered Species Act, although Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead has pushed to remove the animal from the list.
In the 1990s the U.S. government released less than 100 wolves into Yellowstone Park. Today about 1,700 wolves roam the park's border states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, but hundreds have been hunted since being removed from the federal threatened species list in 2011.
Study in the Journal of Animal Ecology on July 29 says that after wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park, elk populations dropped and the amount of berries grizzly bears consumed increased. The report was the first to study the relationship between the grizzlies and wolves in the park. SOURCE: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1365-2656.12123/abstracts
"What is interesting and surprising here is that we have one large predator affecting another large predator."
WILLIAM RIPPLE, STUDY LEAD AUTHOR, OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY
The amount of berry waste found in bears' excrement has nearly doubled since wolves were reintroduced to the park, while elk populations have fallen. The additional berries appearing from less elks eating them have also benefited other animals such as birds and butterflies.
Thank you to R.J.Hayden @Wulalowe
RePosted from 12. 04. 2013:
Noah Greenwald @Noah_Ark_757
Endangered Species Program Director for the Center for Biological Diversity.
The alpha female of Yellowstone's Lamar Canyon pack may have been the most famous wolf in the world. Endlessly photographed and admired by thousands of visitors to the national park, this matriarch of Yellowstone -- often known by her number, 832F -- made the cover of American Scientist and was discussed at length in the pages of the New York Times.
With a gorgeous gray coat and fearless spirit, she was a true rock star from the wolf world. Sadly, a year ago this Friday, 832F crossed the invisible boundary of the national park, entering Wyoming, and was gunned down by a hunter.
Wolf hunting is legal now in Wyoming and several other states because politicians in Congress -- not the scientists in charge of wolf recovery -- stripped away Endangered Species Act protections in five states in 2011. Now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to take away protections for nearly all wolves across the rest of the lower 48.
If this plan goes through, scores of wolves around the country will suffer the same tragic fate as Yellowstone's most famous wolf.
The result, after 40 years of working to return wolves to the American landscape, will be that these beautiful animals are left to eke out a living on just a few slivers of land -- and never far from guns that kill and antiquated attitudes that see wolves as vermin to be exterminated.
The deaths of wolves like 832F are also a loss to science. She was one of a few that wore a $4,000 radio collar outfitted to track her movements by satellite -- and one of a growing number of collar-wearers to have been shot after wandering outside of Yellowstone. Doug Smith, the park's well-respected wolf biologist, bemoaned the death of such wolves earlier this year, stating the "loss of collared wolves is where the rubber meets the road -- it hurts us the most."
Yellowstone's wolves -- reintroduced in the mid-1990s -- have been tracked for years and are among the world's most studied canines. Because of them we know much more about how these intelligent animals form familial bonds, much like ourselves, and play an outsized role in shaping ecosystems.
Because of the park's research we know that Wolf 832F was the granddaughter of two wolves from the Druid Peak pack, which was one of the original packs captured in Canada and transported to Yellowstone and subsequently the subject of many National Geographic films. We also know that her great-grandparents through her grandfather were the alpha pair of another of the park's founding packs, the Rose Creek pack.
This kind of detailed family history can only be obtained through decades of careful research and monitoring -- research that is now being undone by thoughtless and cruel hunts sanctioned by all three of the states surrounding Yellowstone National Park: Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
Wyoming classifies wolves as predatory animals that can be killed by any means and without limit in more than 80 percent of the state, and in parts of Idaho, there are no limits for when or how many wolves can be killed. Not to be outmatched, Montana nearly doubled the bag limit on wolves this year, extended the hunt season to allow killing of pregnant females and refused to listen to pleas by park biologists to create a safety buffer just outside the park's boundaries to protect straying research animals.
These hunts are a throwback to the not-so-distant days when wolves were ruthlessly persecuted and nearly wiped out from the entirety of the lower 48.
Today wolves live in only about 5 percent of their historic range and have less than 1 percent of their former numbers.
Despite these dismal figures, the Obama administration has proposed to remove protections for wolves across most of the country. With numbers going down from hunts and protections gone, wolf recovery that is broadly supported by a strong majority of the American public, has cost taxpayers millions, benefits ecosystems, and is a tremendous Endangered Species Act success story will be flushed down the drain.
The death of Wolf 832F is one moment in this larger tragedy that's playing out at the behest of a small minority of Americans who continue to hold prejudicial, outmoded views of the big, bad wolf.
This past June in Yellowstone, I was fortunate enough to see the three remaining wolves of the Lamar Canyon pack. The pack survives without its matriarch, but the loss of an alpha is always devastating. In this case the pack has splintered, and just a few animals remain. Nonetheless they put on a thrilling show, chasing a bison calf and swimming the Lamar River.
Without continued protections and a shift in attitude by the government agencies that control wolves' fate, our chances of seeing them will become very rare indeed -- and the world a poorer place.
Animals, Endangered Species, Endangered Species Act, Gray Wolves, Green, National Parks, Predators, Wolves, Yellowstone National Park, Green News
RESEARCH SHEDS NEW LIGHT ON WOLVE'S IMPACT ON YELLOWSTONE ECOSYSTEMS
Infographic courtesy of @EarthJustice
(Phys.org)—New research by Colorado State University finds that the removal of wolves from Yellowstone National Park caused complex changes in ecological processes that cannot be simply reversed by wolf reintroduction alone. The research findings are presented in a new paper, "Stream hydrology limits recovery of riparian ecosystems after wolf reintroduction," which is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences and concludes that the effects of apex predator removal are unpredictable and are not symmetrical with the effects of predator reintroduction.
"The reintroduction of the wolf in Yellowstone has contributed to positive improvements in the Park's ecosystems, but it isn't a simple on and off light-switch effect," says Kristin Marshall, lead author and recent CSU alumna. "Our research shows the complexity of the ecological damage http://phys.org/tags/ecological+damage/ caused by the eradication of a key predator species requires careful consideration of dynamic variables for restoration, and so additional caution must be emphasized to avoid predator removal in the first place."
Observational studies by other researchers have suggested that the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone initiated dramatic restoration of riparian ecosystems. However, Marshall's research show that changes in the hydrology of streams caused by the loss of beaver from the ecosystem prevents rapid restoration of willows even when they are totally protected from browsing by elk. The plants required both removing browsing and restoring the beaver-modified stream conditions that occurred prior to wolf removal in order to thrive.
Marshall conducted her research while she was a doctoral student at CSU's Warner College of Natural Resources in the Graduate Degree Program in Ecology. Her research was part of a larger, 10-year experiment conducted by a team of researchers from CSU's Warner College of Natural Resources that examined the effects of beaver dams and removal of browsing on restoration of willows in Yellowstone. The paper is so-authored by Marshall's research co-advisors at CSU: David Cooper, senior research scientist in the Department of Forestry and Rangeland Stewardship, and Thompson Hobbs, senior research scientist with the Natural Resource Ecology Lab and professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability.
Hobbs and Cooper have worked together on the research project for the past decade and emphasize the importance of beavers to the process. "The loss of wolves caused the loss of beaver and willows from small stress," said Hobbs. "Our experiment shows that you can't get beavers back without willow and you can't get willows back without beavers."
The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and will provide new insights to help solve the ongoing debate on the role of wolf-driven trophic cascaded in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem.
"The research illustrates the value of long-term ecological experiments to understanding how species interactions cascade through food webs to determine ecosystem resilience," says Alan Tessier, program director in the National Science Foundation's Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research. "The results have immediate practical applications in restoring and protecting ecosystems such as that of Yellowstone."
Explore further: Beavers keep riparian systems healthy
More information: The full paper can be found at
Journal reference: Proceedings of the Royal Society B
Provided by Colorado State University
WOLVES ARE REBALANCING YELLOWSTONE ECOSYSTEM
Date: October 29, 2003
Source: Oregon State University
CORVALLIS, Ore. - The reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park may be the key to maintaining groves of cottonwood trees that were well on their way to localized extinction, and is working to rebalance a stream ecosystem in the park for the first time in seven decades, Oregon State University scientists say in two new studies.
The data show a clear and remarkable linkage between the presence of wolves and the health of an entire streamside ecosystem, including two species of cottonwoods and the myriad of roles they play in erosion control, stream health, and nurturing diverse plant and animal life.
The findings of these studies were recently published in Ecological Applications, a journal of the Ecological Society of America, and the journal Forest Ecology and Management.
"In one portion of the elk's winter range along the Lamar River of Yellowstone National Park, we found that there were thousands of small cottonwood seedlings," said Robert Beschta, professor emeritus in the College of Forestry at OSU and an expert on streams and riparian systems. "There should also have been hundreds of young trees, but there were none. Long-term elk browsing had been preventing any seedlings from getting taller."
That pattern was common throughout the study area - lots of seedlings in combination with large cottonwood trees generally more than 70 years old, but little or nothing in between.
Young cottonwoods, willows, and other streamside woody species are a preferred food for browsing elk during the harsh winters in northern Yellowstone, when much of the other forage is buried under snow. But when packs of wolves historically roamed the area, food was not the only consideration for elk, which had to be very careful and apparently avoided browsing in high-risk areas with low visibility or escape barriers.
Wolves were systematically killed in the Yellowstone region and many other areas of the West beginning in the late 1800s. A concentrated effort between 1914 and 1926 finished the job - the last known wolf pack disappeared in 1926.
"I considered a variety of potential reasons that might explain the historical decline of cottonwoods that began in the 1920s and have continued up to the last couple of years," said Beschta. "I looked at climate change, lack of floods, fire suppression, natural stand dynamics, and numbers of elk. But none of those factors really explained the problem. "Ultimately, it became clear that wolves were the answer."
While elk populations fluctuated over the decades when wolves were absent, browsing behavior appears to represent an important factor related to streamside impacts. With no fear of wolves, the elk could graze anywhere they liked and for decades have been able to kill, by browsing, nearly all the young cottonwoods. Other streamside species such as willows and berry-producing shrubs also suffered.
That in turn began to play havoc with an entire streamside ecosystem and associated wildlife, including birds, insects, fish and others. Trees and shrubs were lost that could have helped control stream erosion. Food webs broke down.
"Before the wolves came back, it was pretty clear that in some areas we were heading towards an outright extinction of cottonwoods," Beschta said.
Now, with the recent reintroduction of wolves back into Yellowstone in 1995, streamside shrubs and cottonwoods within the Lamar Valley are beginning to become more prevalent and taller, and were the focus of a second study in the same area. That study outlines how the fear of attack by wolves apparently prevents browsing elk from eating young cottonwood and willows in some streamside zones.
With the renewed presence of wolves, young cottonwoods and willows have been growing taller each year over the last four years on "high-risk" sites, where elk apparently feel vulnerable due to terrain or other conditions that might prevent escape. In contrast, on "low-risk" sites, they are still being browsed by elk and show little increase in height.
"In one case where a gully formed an escape barrier for elk, the tree height went up proportionally as the gully deepened and formed an increasing barrier to escape," said William Ripple, a professor with the College of Forestry at OSU. "Where the fear factor of wolves is high, the young trees and willows are doing much better and growing taller."
Traditionally, "keystone" predators such as wolves were known to influence the population of other animals that they preyed on directly, such as elk or antelope. What researchers are now coming to better understand is the "trophic effect," or cascade of changes that can take place in an ecosystem when an important part is removed, Ripple said.
The comparatively pristine conditions of a national park allowed this type of research to make "cause and effect" studies more feasible, the scientists point out.
"The removal of wolves for 70 years - and then their return - actually set the stage for a scientific experiment with fairly compelling results," Beschta said.
In a larger context, the studies also raise valid questions about other complex and poorly understood interactions between plants, animals, and wildlife in disturbed ecosystems across much of the American West, and perhaps elsewhere in the world, the scientists say. In some areas of the West, the disappearance of up to 90 percent of the aspen trees has been documented - another species of plant that is also highly vulnerable to animal browsing when it is young.
"The last period when aspen trees in Yellowstone escaped the effects of elk browsing to generate trees into the forest overstory was the 1920s," Ripple said, "which is also when wolves were removed from the park."
But in at least one place - America's first national park - there is now cause for hope. While it is too early to confirm the widespread recovery of cottonwoods and willows, the reintroduction of wolves appears to have put a stop to major declines in the survival of these plants, the researchers found.
"One point that should not be missed is this is actually great news for the potential recovery of cottonwood trees and mature willows in Yellowstone National Park," Ripple said. "We now have a pretty good idea why they were in decline and the return of wolves should help pave the way for their recovery.
"Even though it may take a very long time, for a change it looks like we're headed in the right direction."
The above story is based on materials provided by Oregon State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
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Oregon State University. "Wolves Are Rebalancing Yellowstone Ecosystem." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 October 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031029064909.htm>.
Thank you @Shimaganish
WOLVES OF YELLOWSTONE
BOLSTERED BY GREAT PUP SURVIVAL, POPULATION OF WOLVES IN YELLOWSTONE IS STABLE,
Via Defenders Wildlife @Defenders
Gunnar Ries/Courtesy Photo
Posted: Wednesday, January 29. 2014
By Mike Koshmrl
In stark contrast to recent history, not a single wolf tracked by Yellowstone National Park biologists was killed in Idaho, Montana or Wyoming hunts during 2013.
In the fall 2012 hunting seasons, 15 wolves that ventured into Yellowstone at least once during the calendar year were legally killed by sportsmen after then leaving the park. As many as 11 of those animals spent the majority of the year in the park.
“The harvest last year had a significant impact on the population,” Yellowstone Wolf Project biologist Dan Stahler said. “This year we kind of dodged a bullet, if you will.
“To our knowledge we cannot confirm any wolves that live primarily in Yellowstone being taken during the hunts,” Stahler said.
Wolf Project personnel recently wrapped up a census of the park’s lobos using radio collar signals to locate and then tally animals in Yellowstone’s known packs.
The count, which Stahler said is still preliminary, came in at 86 wolves, three more than in 2012. The animals ran in 11 packs, seven of which had couples that were considered breeding pairs.
Under Wyoming wolf management plan recovery goals, Yellowstone is supposed to have a minimum of 50 wolves and five breeding pairs.
The second-highest pup survival rate ever documented by the Wolf Project helped boost the numbers this last year, Stahler said. Typically about 30 percent of wolf pups die before reaching adulthood, but during 2013 all but 5 percent made it through their first year.
“Thirty seven out 39 pups survived to the end of the year,” Stahler said.
Going into the 2010, 2011 and 2012 wolf hunting seasons, Yellowstone officials lobbied for reduced-hunting buffer zones in areas adjacent to the park. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks eventually complied, drastically reducing quotas in portions of southwest Montana.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department also decreased quotas in areas near Yellowstone borders and throughout the state’s trophy game area.
“We appreciate that,” Stahler said, “and I think [those quota reductions] helped offer some protection to wolves that ranged outside of the park.”
Information about hunter-harvested wolves that use Grand Teton National Park is not yet available for 2013, spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs said.
Going into 2013 there were seven packs that at least partially roamed in Grand Teton: the 781 Group and the Huckleberry, Snake River, Pacific Creek, Phantom Springs, Pinnacle Peak and Lower Gros Ventre packs.
During Wyoming’s 2012 hunt, at least seven wolves from those packs were killed by hunters. Two of the animals killed wore tracking collars.
Weeks after Wyoming’s 2013 wolf hunt ended, a single male wolf was shot dead on private land within Grand Teton. Details about the Jan. 20 incident are few pending completion of an investigation.
Information about the status of non-Yellowstone Wyoming wolf packs, including hunter harvests, are documented in the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s annual wolf report, which is released around March.
In Yellowstone the population of wolves appears to have leveled off after declining steadily since 2007.
“I’d say we’ve stabilized over the last four years,” Stahler said.
“The days of 170-odd wolves in Yellowstone are over,” he said. “I think what we see now is healthy populations of the prey and wolves, and I think it probably reflects what the longer term trends will be.”
Yellowstone wolves not only escaped hunters’ scopes but also better avoided camera lenses last year.
“In the northern range of Yellowstone it was more difficult to see wolves this past summer,” Stahler said.
The biologist’s statement corroborates the contentions of anti-hunting wolf watchers who say Canis lupus is now harder to spot in Yellowstone.
Part of the reason is a drastically reduced Lamar Canyon Pack, which for years was the most reliable pack for visitors to spot.
When the Lamar pack’s alpha female, wolf 832F, was dropped by a hunter in the fall of 2012 it made headlines around the world.
“That pack kind of crumbled, in part because of the hunt,” Stahler said. “The Lamar Canyon pack essentially has just two adults left.”
About 27,500 visitors saw wolves in 2012, according to the wolf project’s latest annual report. Viewer numbers for 2013 are still being tabulated.
WHAT DID PARK RANGERS USE TO COMBAT EROSION IN YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK?
http://keepwolveslisted.blogspot.com/p/yellowstone-park-wolves.htmlBy the early 1990s, Yellowstone National Park, one of America’s most iconic parks, was in trouble. Herds of deer and elk, unchecked by natural predators, were stripping the forest bare. The huge herds were eating tree saplings before they had a chance to mature, consuming the heavy foliage that protected the lake shores and river banks from erosion, and otherwise enjoying their free reign like they owned the place.
And own the place they did: the predators that could keep them in check had been gone from the park since the 1920s. In 1926, the last known wolf pack in Yellowstone was killed, and the huge park was apex-predator free for the intervening seven decades. All that changed in 1995 when, after years of encouragement by biologists, park rangers introduced wolves back into Yellowstone.
The introduction of the wolves completely transformed the park. Not only did the wolves begin to cull the deer and elk herds, their presence also changed the movement patterns of the herds. Deer lingered less in any one area of the park, moved more frequently, and the vegetation thickened up, encouraging other animals (such as birds and beavers) to repopulate the area. The thicker vegetation, more abundant saplings (which are now maturing into larger trees), and other secondary changes brought about by the presence of the wolves has stopped river erosion and changed the very landscape of the park.
RJ Hayden @Wulalowe
18th February 2014
THE WOLF THAT CHANGED AMERICA
VIDEO: WOLF EXPERT DOUG SMITH ON THE YELLOWSTONE WOLF PROJECT
In this Web-exclusive video, wolf expert Doug Smith discusses the Yellowstone Wolf Project. Started in 1994, the Wolf Project has taken advantage of the visibility of Yellowstone’s wolves to explore wolf population dynamics. Of particular interest is how wolves interact with prey and scavenger populations in the park. Smith hopes that Wolf Project research can help replace common misconceptions about wolves with factual information.
THE REINTRODUCTION OF WOLVES INTO YELLOWSTONE
Greater Yellowstone Coalition - WOLVES from GYC on Vimeo.
Nearly 1,650 wolves roam the Northern Rockies, in 250 packs with more than 110 breeding pairs. About 500 call Greater Yellowstone home and an estimated 80 wolves live within Yellowstone National Park.
GYC continues to monitor wolf numbers in Greater Yellowstone. Meanwhile, Yellowstone wolves are still playing their ecological role.
A report from Oregon State University plant researchers William J. Ripple and Bob Beschta reinforces the belief that the wolf has been the primary factor in the improved health of aspen, willow, and cottonwood trees in Yellowstone National Park's Northern Range. This in turn has benefitted such Yellowstone wildlife as beaver, bison, pronghorn, songbirds, raptors, and trout.
The return of the wolf has changed elk behavior and reduced some herds, but overall numbers remain strong in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. According to Yellowstone biologist Doug Smith, the Yellowstone herds remain healthy despite its smaller size. The number is more in line with historic levels since wolves were reintroduced and grizzly bears and mountain lions returned naturally. Overall elk populations in the states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming remain healthy. However, elk populations are now more dynamic with the return of large carnivores and elk distribution has shifted to areas of refuge which make them more difficult to hunt. Elk populations are affected by many variables including weather, disease, predation, and human mortality.
The Greater Yellowstone Coalition has consistently worked to find the middle ground on wolf management, to move beyond the ongoing conflicts. They continue to promote science-based management and increased tolerance for this iconic animal in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Posted by RJ Hayden at 9:08 AM
Labels: animals, biodiversity, conservation, ecology, ecosystem, endangered, Endangered Species Act, environment, gray wolf, Montana, National Park, trophic cascade, wildlife, wolf, wolves, Wyoming, Yellowstone
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK
THE RISE OF BLACK WOLF ( VIDEO )
Follow the journey of a rebel named Black Wolf who breaks from his pack and survives to be one of the oldest wolves in Yellowstone.
He'll travel paved roads most wolves avoid at all costs as he ventures out to mate with a rival pack's females.
At nearly twice the age most wolves reach, Black Wolf's unorthodox lifestyle likely means he has more pups than any wolf in Yellowstone.
National Geographic cameras capture the action when he finally achieves alpha male status in his own pack.
The young wolf's story is a composite based on the experiences of several animals. It was created using the best Yellowstone wolf cinematography of the past decade and represents accurate wolf behavior.
Produced by National Geographic Television for National Geographic Channels
Source : channel.nationalgeographic.com