Yellowstone Wolves and Changing Landscapes

Most of us learned about the web of life in school, but no one has a complete understanding of the complexities involved in food webs. Given time, we often see unexpected results and Yellowstone National Park provides an excellent example.

guided tours Yellowstone
Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park.

Current research at Yellowstone links the resurgence of beaver populations to the grey wolf reintroduction in 1995. The introduction of a top predator back into the ecosystem has had a “cascade effect”. The presence of wolves has several impacts on elk herds. Elk now travel in smaller groups, spend less time foraging, and are less likely to negatively impact an area due to overfeeding. Changes in elk behavior have led to the regeneration of aspen and willow stands. Willow stands are a key indicator of healthy beaver habitat. In 1995, Yellowstone was home to only one beaver colony. Now, there are nine. As beaver populations rebound, aquatic ecosystems benefit.

Yellowstone bears and wolves
Grizzly bears on bison carcass in Lamar Valley with wolves waiting in the background.
Yellowstone wolves
Female member of Yellowstone’s 8 Mile wolf pack – winter 2013.

The most read story from Yellowstone National Park in 2015 highlighted the way wolves are changing ecosystems in the park.

Are you thinking of a trip to Yellowstone? Reefs to Rockies has scheduled a Fall Wildlife Expedition to Yellowstone (trip dates September 6-10, 2016). We’ll spend three full days exploring Yellowstone in search of iconic species like bison, bears, and wolves. Contact us for more details.