I grew up in a place where the forests are tropical, humid and rainy, and for sure when I used to sing “let’s play in the forest while the wolf is not around” I could not understand to what kind of power the song was referring to. Wolves have been in our imaginary as the danger we need to run away from, the danger we need to chase, to protect our lambs or even because we feel we are preys on them. The truth is, as humans, we have been more predator than any other species on the planet, and this including wolves
This is post is a story about wolves in Yellowstone, is a story about death, passion, survival, and balance.
This park is a huge ecosystem of unparalleled beauty. Steaming kettles for any road you take, valleys, plains, meadows, forests, and mountains where squirrels, foxes, coyotes, grizzly bears, deer, bison, and wolves share a space of matchless beauty. Yes, you read right: Wild wolves! And when you dare to find them determinedly in the park early in the morning, you discover that there is people more passionate than you about them.
This whole experience in Yellowstone National Park was outstanding in any sense but particularly because we had the luck to be able to encounter wild wolves, a luck that not everybody has on a first time visit, but especially because we had the opportunity to understand the complex ecosystem of the park and how important wolves are for the wellbeing of the whole system.
Ecosystems aren’t more complex than we think, they are more complex than we are able to think.
Ecologist Frank Egler
The last endemic wolf of Yellowstone was killed in 1925. Little did the men know about the environmental impact and disaster that this matter would bring to the park. The disappearance of the wolf in Yellowstone led to a total imbalance of the park’s ecosystem. Quadrupedal herbivore species such as bison, elks, and goats, grew out of control and feeding on fresh grass, they dried meadows, eroding the land; many forests died, many rivers dried up and as a result, many other species disappeared or had to move away.
Fortunately, a pilot project was carried out between 1995 and 1996, which reintroduced 31 wild Canadian wolves into the park without knowing what would be the result. Would they flee back? Would they kill each other? They did not know.
The project not only reintroduced successfully the wolf, who was on the list of animals in danger of extinction at that time, but their presence in the park also regenerated the ecosystems. Wolves feed on deer, which were forced to change their places to graze in order to avoid the predators, what allowed the prairie grass had time to grow, populations of deer and bison stayed away from many places now occupied by herds of wolves, so the forests sprouted. With more trees, soil erosion slowed down, what re-established the ravines and park rivers. Beavers lodged again in the banks, what gives depth to the rivers, creating habitats for fishes and otters and some birds returned to the park.
The reintroduction of the wolf not only changed Yellowstone’s ecosystem but also it’s geography, changing the course of the rivers, meadows, and forests, bringing again a natural balance in the park. This was one of the most beautiful lessons nature has given us: everything in life needs a balance. It is impressive how a predator that we have pictured in our imaginary as “what we have to kill” can teach us so much.
Wolves are complex in their social structural organization. We had the chance to share most of the time spent in the park with the “wolvers” (wolf enthusiasts that follow them closely and know all their intricate stories). We learned things about wolves: they are organized in packs, and when moving, the elders go in front, facing whatever danger the pack may face, while the leader of the pack goes behind everybody, this structure protect the whole pack from the front to the back. This highly organized social structure allows them to have a great cooperation when hunting, communicating or defending their territory. Wolves are capable of developing close relationships and deep bonds, wolves are capable also to demonstrate deep affection for their family and would even sacrifice themselves in order to protect them. Their complex behavior has shown that leaders may be charismatic, despotic, tyrant or submissive, lazy, noble or even just a mess, what has led to deep research about wolves behavior.
When talking with the “wolvers” (the wolf watchers) we heard passionate wild love stories that could be related to any “Colombo-Mexican” soap opera; romances, infidelities and dead but among anything the story that changed my perception about them and about how much we need everything to be in balance.
Today, you can delight yourself with passionate stories of more than a hundred individuals, and of course to enjoy the park as it is supposed to be: in balance, with room for everyone. Perhaps you run with the luck to bump into any one of them passing by in a valley or maybe you meet with a group of wolf watchers that will tell you the new episode of a live series, that starts every day at dawn and falls with one of the ten packs of wolves howling at dusk.
What is completely true about this story is that prey or predator, we all have an important role to fulfill in the circle of life. Watch the video that this story inspired us:
Thank you for reading. Would you like to hear the wolves howl? Would you like to live this experience? Tell us in the comments. If you liked this post, please, help us to share it!
For further information, visit the Official website of the Nationals Parks. You may also like to read the must-see in Yellowstone.