The Long Reach of the Wolf
June 7, 2004 7:09 AM   Subscribe

The Long Reach of the Wolf
Wolves were returned to Yellowstone in 1995 after a 70 year absence (they were destroyed as menaces during the 20's). There are now 16 active packs in the park, and they have triggered a cascade of unanticipated changes in the park's ecosystem.
posted by Irontom (24 comments total)

 
I saw a great National Geographic special about this a few years back. I'd been curious about how the wolves are doing--thanks for posting the article.
posted by josephtate at 7:18 AM on June 7, 2004


This is great stuff. Thank you.
posted by keef at 7:33 AM on June 7, 2004


Thanks Irontom. I really enjoyed that article.
posted by shoepal at 7:36 AM on June 7, 2004


This would seem to be applicable proof that if you just get the hell out of nature's way, everything finds its own working level of existence.

More trees, more fish... I had no idea magpies were scavengers. I had no idea what they ate, actually. Never had to feed one myself.

And I love the phrase "meat drunk."

Good news from a great article. Thanks, IronTom.
posted by chicobangs at 8:02 AM on June 7, 2004


There's always a decent chance of seeing a live wolf on the International Wolf Center's Wolf Cam.

The Center itself is pretty cool, too, if you ever happen to find yourself in Ely.
posted by COBRA! at 8:15 AM on June 7, 2004


chicobangs: magpie diet

If you are around magpies, you will occasionally see one beat the hell out of a small bird, presumably prior to eating.
posted by biffa at 8:16 AM on June 7, 2004


Too bad they can't do something similar in the eastern US, where the white-tailed deer population is similarly out of control.
posted by tommasz at 8:26 AM on June 7, 2004


sweet. thanks for the excellent post.

i grew up in northern minnesota with wolf packs howling back and forth to each other across the valley we lived in - while spooky, it is one of my favorite memories and one that i would assume few in the lower 48 will ever have the good fortune to experience again.
posted by specialk420 at 8:29 AM on June 7, 2004


Two years ago, a woman who could take some amount of credit for bringing the wolves back to Yellowstone interviewed to be our receptionist. Now a sculptor married to a PhD candidate, she was looking for a low impact job that would finance her art. I was disappointed when she chose another job.
posted by putzface_dickman at 9:26 AM on June 7, 2004


I lived in Montana in the early 90's when they were doing the studies and discussions which ultimately saw wolves reintroduced to Yellowstone. I was amazed at the furor the topic stirred amongst the local ranchers who were afraid the wolves would leave the park to hunt their herds of sheep and cattle. I'm sure that there are those who are still unhappy with wolves being returned to the area. However, I'm happy to see the project is clearly successful.
posted by onhazier at 10:12 AM on June 7, 2004


Great link. I'd so love to see a larger image of that first photo in the article.
posted by BT at 10:19 AM on June 7, 2004


While it's great to read about wolves being reintroduced into this habitat, one does wonder how well they'll coexist with the local humans. I mean, how dangerous is it to keep a healthy wolf population around? Is there a danger that they'll spread to the local suburbs and start picking off children, or are wolves too wary of humans to come near?
posted by Loudmax at 11:23 AM on June 7, 2004


I'm sure that there are those who are still unhappy with wolves being returned to the area. However, I'm happy to see the project is clearly successful.

I'd say that success isn't as clear as it is relative. There's still a lot of resistance in the area to the presence of wolves, and sometimes, harsh measures have to be taken. Mind you, I firmly believe that kills like that are politically motivated as well as just for protection of cattle herds. I guess you should say the kills are preferable to free roaming packs on private lands, but to what degree? The predator/human conflict isn't a new phenomenon, but wolves just bring out the worst fears, in this part of the country.

At some point, when I could do the topic justice, I was going to post to the front about the long, strange fight that Montana, Idaho and Wyoming have been in concerning delisting of wolves as endangered. I probably still will, unless someone with more time beats me too it. But I do wonder how today's news will shape future debate.

On preview, wolves are not going to go into any local suburbs to pick off little red riding hood. Maybe a fifi dog or two. In this neck of the woods, Cougars are the ones that will make off with children ... not wolves.
posted by Wulfgar! at 11:38 AM on June 7, 2004


First the wolves, next the elephants!
posted by homunculus at 12:05 PM on June 7, 2004


Coyotes and cougars are a danger to the kids. My parents lived in Jasper in the 60s, where the real concern with the wolves was that their dog would take off and run with them. (It always came back.)

I think this is great. The ranchers can find a way to deal with it, just like the ranchers and farmers here in BC have to. Maybe guard llamas? Yes. Guard llamas! I hear they're mean and spit on interlopers.
posted by Salmonberry at 12:17 PM on June 7, 2004


OSU's Wolves in Nature has more info.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:26 PM on June 7, 2004


While it's great to read about wolves being reintroduced into this habitat, one does wonder how well they'll coexist with the local humans. I mean, how dangerous is it to keep a healthy wolf population around?

Wolves are most often afraid of humans, unless maybe they're starving and desperate. Even then, they're not likely to attack.

Reference:
Farley Mowat, Never Cry Wolf .
(The film is not wholly faithful to the book. The book-on-tape is read brilliantly by Farley himself.)

I believe Chad Kister sites a similar experience in Arctic Quest, another great memoir of a harrowing real-life journey. I recommend both.
posted by Shane at 1:11 PM on June 7, 2004


(this is good)
posted by ehintz at 2:17 PM on June 7, 2004


Since I apparently SUCK at trackback, I thought I'd just throw a self-link right on in here to the comments. I hope no one minds too much, and if you do, we'll deal.
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:15 PM on June 7, 2004


"Too bad they can't do something similar in the eastern US, where the white-tailed deer population is similarly out of control."

The hybrid coyotes (coydogs) are doing a fine job here in the north woods. As far as wolves go there is some question about the suitability of the region. As much as I would love the reintroduction of a native species (especially a predator) a wolf population would probably not be sustainable. Without enough wolves to establish packs the interbreeding with coyotes and feral dogs would only dilute the wolf gene pool and leave us with a bunch of mangy hybrid mutts eating cats and rummaging through our garbage cans.
posted by cedar at 3:25 PM on June 7, 2004


Wolves are most often afraid of humans,

Umm, for the record, I don't think that wolves are afraid of us, and many of the canid biologists I know agree with me. That was probably a bit of anthropomorphism on Mowatt's part. They just find us disruptive ... bad for the pack dynamic and awful for hunting.
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:35 PM on June 7, 2004


You see, we don't roll around in elk and moose shit, and we're too tall to take proper instruction. We stink and we're stupid. Afraid, maybe not. Condescending, probably ...

;-)
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:38 PM on June 7, 2004


You see, we don't roll around in elk and moose shit, and we're too tall to take proper instruction. We stink and we're stupid. Afraid, maybe not. Condescending, probably ...

Heh! But if anyone were to roll around in mooseshit to be like the other animals, it would be Mowat, which is exactly why he's a hero of mine. Right, "afraid" is probably a bad choice of words.
posted by Shane at 6:11 AM on June 8, 2004


"The return of the gray wolf to the American West isn't just a triumph for conservationists. It's a victory over the darkness in our own human nature."
posted by homunculus at 8:26 PM on June 9, 2004


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