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Watch This When You're High - How Wolves Changed The Yellowstone Ecosystem

Hey Dante,

Another submission for you. How wolves have changed the Yellowstone ecosystem. I lived outside Yellowstone from 2002-2006 so some of this was going while I was there as the wolves were reintroduced in 1995. Since then, I have kept tabs on most of this through my professional career. There is a wealth of peer reviewed research to back up these videos, although like anything the scientific data is spun into a slightly exaggerated story for the videos.

I like this one first, it gives some good background on the tracking done by the wildlife biologists: (SEE BELOW)

This is a good follow-up that builds on that to tell the story of how wolves changed the entire ecosystem through a trophic cascade: https://opb.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/a58e3ca2-52ab-45f5-87ac-26ee0d681146/wolves-of-yellowstone-earth-a-new-wild/.

And this one is similar to the second one. I don't like it as much as it is narrated by a Brit who uses European terms (deer vs elk, etc.). But this video has some cool video shots: (SEE BELOW)

Hope they work out!


Big props to cougarace for sending this in. 

I've been meaning to find a way to write about this because I first learned about it a few years ago on my first trip to Yellowstone. It blew my mind then and it has again and again each time I've heard about it since. I listen to Steve Rinella's podcast when I get the chance, (guy is the fuckin man) and one episode he did called "Cry Wolf" was specifically on this subject.

What it boils down to is this. 

Wolves are an extremely hot-button subject. 

Farmers and easy-going residents in the rural and mountain regions fucking hate them. They kill livestock, pose a danger to children and unsuspecting folks, and are just a general nuisance altogether. 

Biologists love them, and advocate for them because of how critical they are to the ecosystem.

Back to my trip to Yellowstone- my fiance and I took a guided tour of Grand Teton National Park, we drove the Yellowstone Loops ourselves in a jeep with a tent on the roof and I couldn't recommend doing both of these more. Our guide was incredible. She grew up just outside the park and was an encyclopedia of information. She spotted Eagles from miles away. Knew where to find us moose young with their mothers, elk, pronghorn, you name it. 

She explained to us how back in the early 1900s wolves were totally wiped out of Yellowstone and Wyoming in general. People were permitted to hunt them because they were seen as a nuisance and threat to business. So they were eradicated. 

What transpired over the next 50-75 years was a total shift in what was once a balanced ecosystem...

Because there weren't any wolves, the elk population exploded. Because the elk population exploded the vegetation around riverbanks and bodies of running water were decimated due to their increased feeding. Because this vegetation was destroyed beavers were shit out of luck for food since they couldn't compete with the elk, and also couldn't find shit to dam up rivers. Because they couldn't dam rivers, fish were able to carry on their merry way and avoid becoming sitting ducks for bears to feed off as easily. 

It was all trickle down, butterfly effect, whatever you want to call it and it all pointed directly back to wolves being taken out of the equation. True and blue circle of life stuff. 

Call me a loser all you want but that kind of stuff fascinates the hell out of me and really puts into perspective how insignificant we are to the grand scheme of things yet how much we manage to fuck things up for mother nature.

They were finally reintroduced into the park in 1995, which the video gets into what a process and battle it was in doing so. It's still a hugely contentious issue that states are trying to figure out today.

Anyway, Yellowstone should be on everybody's bucket list, along with Grand Teton National Park. I really wish I was blogging back when I made that trip because I would have loved to document the entire thing. It would have made for incredible content. 

Enjoy learning about how important and misunderstood wolves are-

Thanks again cougarace. Keep the suggestions coming. Keep them classy. No butt stuff.