Some highlights from KSL's Mike Godfrey's series of articles examining Yellowstone wolf reintroduction.
Yellowstone's wolves 25 years after reintroduction: Separating fact from fiction
By Mike Godfrey, March 24
[On reintroduced wolves being “the wrong ones”:]
“This alleged difference in size is still widely perceived as evidence that the reintroduced wolves belong to a "super-sized", more aggressive subspecies. While the size can be an indicator of genetics, given what we've learned from genetic testing and wolf distribution behavior, the more likely explanation is that environmental factors affect animal size and growth. This effect has been documented in other species including polar bears, which faced the challenges of a warming climate and shorter hunting seasons, are, on average, smaller than they were 30 years ago.”
Read the full articles here: https://www.ksl.com/article/46732727/ye ... om-fiction
Fact vs. fiction: The effect wolves have on Yellowstone's game animals, ecology
By Mike Godfrey, April 3
[On wolves destroying Yellowstone’s elk population:]
“It is true that some elk herds in and around Yellowstone have seen drastic reductions since wolf reintroduction, but the reductions are likely the result of dozens of factors. … In the previous article, we discussed whether relocated wolves are, as often claimed, larger and thus unfairly and unnaturally advantaged in preying on Yellowstone’s elk population. The irony of this claim is that Jasper National Park’s wolves (where the first reintroduced wolves originated) had been preying on Yellowstone elk for the better part of a century prior to their reintroduction to Yellowstone National Park.”
“An examination of Yellowstone’s much-discussed northern elk herd, which reduced from nearly 20,000 animals to between 4,000 and 6,000 animals — a reduction of about 75% — offers a great deal of clarity. Following the predator eradication programs of the 19th and 20th centuries, ungulate populations ballooned and became hyper-abundant in some areas.”
“Ascribing both real and perceived reductions in elk numbers to just, or mainly wolves neglects the majority of a complex ecological equation. Efforts to quantify the effect of wolves on elk numbers are ongoing, but it's clear other factors have contributed to documented declines.”
“Today, Yellowstone’s northern elk herd "is at or near to the population objective," Kujala added. But he also says "there are a lot of folks that, rather than seeing a population objective, they see that as less than it was."
"We have fewer elk now but it’s probably a healthier number, more in balance with what elk numbers should be," Smith added. "Elk numbers have stabilized. Bear and cougar and wolf numbers have stabilized. We have what we believe to be a healthier landscape. ... we’re kind of in a new era."
[On surplus killing:]
“Will they kill more than they can eat in the short-term? On rare occasions, yes, especially "if the risk equation balances in their favor." But wolves subsist on those kills long term if they are not pushed off the kill by humans or other predators.”
[On wolves changing rivers:]
“Ironically, proponents of this wolf-centric hypothesis, like those who claim wolves are "destroying" elk and moose populations, have exaggerated the role wolves play. The loss of Yellowstone’s predators, like wolves, did indeed contribute to the hyper-abundance and overgrazing by herbivores like elk. But as we’ve discussed above, wolf reintroduction was in no way an isolated event. … The key term in the story of Yellowstone’s seemingly miraculous rejuvenation is biodiversity. Smith put it this way:, "Having a lot of different kinds of things at moderate numbers is better than having a lot of any one thing."
, https://www.ksl.com/article/46736269/fa ... nd-ecology