Recently, I watched an old video of how the reintroduction of wild wolves changed the landscape and life in Yellowstone National Park. It was a beautiful video of how the presence or the absence of a single animal can change the whole course of nature. The video scared me that the interference of man in Nature’s natural process can have such great and far reaching effects. For those who have not got a chance to see that video, check it out in YouTube. I will give a brief description of what transpired.
In the early 1900s, the wolves were the strongest natural predators, along with the grizzly bear, in the Yellowstone National Park. They killed elk, bison and other small animals for food. In the early 1930s these wolves were hunted and killed in the thousands for bounty. Since the last wolf died in American Yellowstone Park, many dramatic changes occurred. Some of the major ones were the declines in the forest cover, mainly the dip in the growth of the Aspen trees, soil erosion in the Lamar River, disappearance of the beaver colonies, disappearance of the songbird etc. These were all very worrisome indicators and the scientists and researchers could not explain all these changes simply with climate change or global warming. With careful study and after connecting all the dots, the researchers made a startling and controversial finding. All these changes were a direct result of the disappearance of the wolves.
Of course this finding was not accepted by many. Taking a major risk, the research reintroduced the wolves into the Yellowstone National Park after over 50 years. They faced a lot of opposition from locals, animal activists and the nearby communities. They still persevered; they brought in 31 wolves from Canadian Yellowstone Park. Within years of their reintroduction, the magic of nature could be seen.
With the wolves hunting the elk and bison, the foliage got a chance to grow and prosper along the banks of the river. The carcasses left behind by the wolves meant more food for other scavengers like ravens, coyotes, eagles etc. even worms and insects prospered. This created food sources for the beaver and they came back to the Yellowstone. With growing forest cover and foliage, songbirds were back too. Though the changes were gradual, it all came together when the natural predators was back in place.
There are many such examples of human intervention causing problems and damage of nature’s course. Often, in our arrogance and haste to play savior, we intervene in the natural process of life, death and rebirth in nature. It is time we take a step back and accept that nature is a hard taskmaster, but a wise one too.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these images. They are sourced from Google and Pinterest.