October 15, 2007
Ecology and Design
The Effects Wolves Have on Ecosystems
There was one point in time where grey wolves wandered most of North America,
until humans became involved.
Throughout the years, wolves were being killed by
ranchers, hunters, and governmental employees, in hopes to make areas safer for good
hunting animals and livestock.
After fifty years, there was a detrimental toll on the grey
wolf population, leaving only a couple hundred left.
Since the wolves were extinguished,
herds of elk, moose, deer and antelope slowly over-populated areas, especially in
Gray wolves were the only predators that killed these animals, so their
numbers continued to grow and over-graze all areas.
Now, the numbers of these animals
need to rapidly decrease, before they cause more devastation to the vegetation.
Therefore, especially in Yellowstone, areas call for the reintroduction of wolves in order
to balance out the ecosystem (Miller, 191, 2007).
The wolf population was seen as a nuisance instead of a part of a balance
ecosystem, until recent years.
They were only seen as threatening toward other more
“prized” animals, and wolves were not under this category.
However, people did not
realize how important they were in order to balance out ecosystems.
elk, moose, deer, and antelope have free range everywhere without being vulnerable to
This caused the destruction of vegetation throughout certain areas.
thriving wolf population not only changes where and how elk browse -- it even
reverberates down to the number of willows that grow next to streams [. . .] When you
remove the wolves, the elk are able to browse unimpeded wherever they want, as long as
they want. Now that the wolves are back, the ecology of fear comes into play” (Bernard,
Once the elk see the wolves in a certain area, they tend to stay away from them,
which limits the areas elk can live in.
This then allows the plant life to flourish,
especially around streams, allowing willow, aspen, and cotton woods trees to grow.
These streamside trees help make the area more habitable for fish, by lowering the
temperature (Miller, 2007).
Also, they were helpful when it came to stream erosion, but
came near to extinction, because of the grazing animals.
Not only did they help with
erosion, but also kept the streamside ecosystem balanced.
Without these trees, “food
webs were broken” (Stauth, 2003).
There has been a large debate over whether or not wolves should be reintroduced