Wolves in Paradise? Yellowstone’s Wolves in Transition
When Congress listed the gray wolf as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 1974, it set the stage for a famous ecological experiment. The federal government began to create a recovery plan, which called for wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone National Park and Idaho.
In 1995, the reintroduced wolves hit the ground running. Scientists carefully documented the ecological effects wolves sent rippling throughout the northern Rocky Mountains. Wolves restored this ecosystem from top to bottom. The subsequent recovery of willows and aspens that elk had been eating to death in the absence of wolves offered a powerful ecological lesson.
Yellowstone Wolf Reintroduction, Photo Credit National Park Service
By 2002, wolves had reached recovery goals of 300 individuals and 30 breeding pairs in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming for three consecutive years. Since 2011, wolves have been delisted and hunted annually in much of the northern Rockies.
Because wolves don’t abide by political boundaries, Montana implemented a buffer zone around Yellowstone where wolves couldn’t be hunted. However, the state quickly succumbed to pressure from hunters and removed this buffer, leaving Yellowstone wolves vulnerable.
The 2012/2013 wolf hunt, combined with other causes of mortality, caused a 12 percent drop in their population. While this —> Read More Here