Yellowstone National Park has been a popular tourist attraction for centuries. In 1872, it was declared the first American national park to protect the beautiful collection of geysers and to provide a sanctuary for many different animals. The creation of the park did not immediately provide legal protection for wildlife. Hunters and tourists were free to come to Yellowstone and kill any game or predator they came across, including the wolves.
At the time Yellowstone was created, wolf numbers were already in decline throughout the United States. Hunters often targeted these wild ancestors of dogs to reduce attacks on livestock. Exterminating the wolves seemed essential. Even when hunting regulations in Yellowstone were established in 1883, wolves were among the many predators not protected by law. By the early 1900s, not a single wolf was left in Yellowstone.
Photography courtesy of Yellowstone National Park
Soon after the eradication of Yellowstone wolves, park managers and biologists recognized the devastating blow to the ecosystem. Deer populations exploded and vegetation became largely overgrazed. This waterfall effect caused the entire park to suffer from the absence of wolves. Seventy years later, the gray wolf was finally reintroduced into the park and the results were astounding. The wolves reduced deer overpopulation, which reduced overgrazing and allowed more tree growth in the valleys. The number of beavers increased because of the plentiful trees, and the dams they created attracted plenty of other animals. Carrion left by the wolves provided a needed food source for grizzly bears and eagles, and
Top: Wolves like this male alpha wolf can weigh up to 110 pounds. Middle: The Lamar Canyon wolf pack is unique because it is the only pack known to be lead by a female. Bottom: Despite their menacing reputation, wolves are naturally afraid of humans, which is why they are so hard to spot in the wild.
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Published on Jan 12, 2016
Winter is here, but adventure awaits! Strike up a conversation, spark a new interest, or slip into something familiar in this issue of Stowa...