Hour of the wolf

Fewer elk, more vegetation. When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the 1990s, it meant big changes for the Park’s ecosystem.

Although the jury is still deliberating the effects of wolves, early evidence strongly suggests that the canids are unwitting restoration biologists. By simply doing what they do — mainly preying on elk — they are visiting great changes on the Yellowstone ecosystem. Many of the changes are positive for those things humans value, and for experts to accomplish some of these same goals would be hugely expensive.

Reducing the numbers of elk allowed vegetation long suppressed by elk grazing to begin coming back, and that had a cascading effect on other species dependent on that vegetation. And, since wolves are the only predator capable of bringing down a full-sized cervid, their reintroduction was beneficial to scavengers, too. Via Rebecca’s Pocket.