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Returning Wolves to Yellowstone

When you kill the latest pest or disease in your garden or on your farm, are you killing the wolf in your ecosystem?

In 1995 wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park, a, spectacular mountain ecosystem situated around the unique volcanic features of geysers, and mud pots. The signature animals in the park are Bison and bears. But it turns out the wolves formed an integral part of the ecosystem far beyond anyone’s imagining.

The improvements that wolves brought back into the ecosystem went beyond balancing predator-prey balances, the wolves actually changed the courses of rivers in Yellowstone.

  • 14 wolves were introduced into Yellowstone in 1995

  • Wolves hunted and ate deer

  • This decreased the deer population

  • The deer started to avoid areas where they were easy prey

  • These areas avoided by deer then began to regenerate

  • Forests of aspen and willow flourished in these areas

  • These young forests then grew bushes and berries and bugs

  • This brought in various birds into the area

  • Increased number of trees brought in beaver (previously extinct in the area)

  • Beaver dams made habitat for otters, muskrats, and reptiles

  • Wolves also killed coyotes

  • Less coyotes led to more rabbits and mice

  • This brought in more hawks, red fox, badgers and weasels

  • Even Bald Eagle and raven populations increased

  • With better predator-prey balance came more diversity of thriving species

  • More vegetation led to less erosion along rivers

  • Riverbanks therefore stabilized as river channels narrowed and more pools formed

  • River courses became more stable

Therefore, returning Wolves to Yellowstone:

1. Transformed the great ecosystem of Yellowstone, increasing habitat and species diversity

2. Changed the physical geography of the park by changing and stabilizing the course of rivers

Adding wolves back into Yellowstone is a dramatic example of how a small change in a biological ecosystem can lead to a cascade of improvements to the entire ecosystem, not just the biology but the physical environment as well.

Changes to the environment can be equally damaging as well. This is how biology works, the sum much greater than its parts.

If you kill a pest in your garden, have you started a cascade of events that will make it much harder for you to grow food? You just might be. Beware of killing “wolves.”

That is why in Natural Farming we try to avoid interfering in the balance. We want Nature to balance Herself. Although we do use a toolset of control measures, these interventions are avoided as much as possible. They are as low impact as possible and used as an early intervention to keep levels of interference low.

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