How Wolves Have Not Changed The Rivers In Yellowstone
A recent Youtube video gone viral (over 37M views) called “How Wolves Change Rivers” purports the massive positive effects of the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone to suggest that as a result of that reintroduction in 1995:
The Claim: There are more songbirds, aspens, willows and beavers. Wolves changed the course of rivers, changed the behavior of deer and the height of trees quintupled in 6 years.
This is Romance Biology and the creators of this video do not make these claims based on fact. The focus of this video is to draw the uneducated into the loop of “Green Biology”. The following reaction came from wildlife biologist Dr. Charles Kay.
Wolves’ presence has improved the landscape in Yellowstone
The Lamar River and other streams have not recovered—in fact, the Lamar River in the Lamar Valley is worse than ever. The Lamar Valley was once famous for abundant elk herds which grazed there prior to the reintroduction of wolves and has subsequently been the premiere location inside of Yellowstone for wolf enthusiasts to catch a glimpse of their wilderness idol. But today, you most likely won’t see any elk in the Lamar. And you won’t see as many wolf-watchers, either. That’s because wolves have killed the majority of the elk—and deer and moose—and most wolves have since migrated out of Yellowstone in search of territory and food sources.
Wolves killed only a few of the animals in Yellowstone
Prior to the reintroduction of wolves there were close to 20,000 elk in the northern elk herd. Today, that number is less than 4,500. Today, the few elk, deer, and moose cluster on private property outside of the park or in the small towns inside the park. They are seeking sanctuary from the wolf! Moose numbers have dropped from around 1,000 to almost zero.
Wolves have created widespread “trophic cascading”
You’ll still see plenty of buffalo roaming in the Lamar Valley. That’s because wolves have not changed the habits of the number one species that’s wreaking havoc on the valley’s meadows and riparian areas—the American bison. “The Lamar valley is worse than cattle feedlot. There are 3,500 bison in the Lamar pounding things into oblivion,” said Dr. Kay. He also mentioned humorously that the bison are now wrecking some of the aspens and willows too.
There’s been plenty of controversy about how to handle the growing bison problem, but the video ignored this. It’s not just because of their increasing numbers but also because of disease that can spread to the nearby cattle herds. In fact, last winter the Park Service culled 900 bison. It wasn’t the first time this happened and it won’t be the last.
Wolves are the keystone predator
As should be evident by the fact that it was people who eliminated the wolf from the lower 48 in the early 20th century in the first place and then it was people who brought the wolf back to Yellowstone in the mid ‘90s, it is not wolves but it is people who are the keystone predators. This has been the case in America for thousands of years.
Native people determine the distribution and abundance of elk, deer, and other ungulates—not carnivores. To call wolves, grizzly bears, and other carnivore’s keystone predators is white racist theology, and this is demonstrated in his breakdown of the Lewis and Clark expedition where Clark charts how the hunting pressure from the native tribes determined both the location and the quantity of wildlife.
Chances are that of the 37M people who have seen this video have never been to Yellowstone nor understand the biology of this area. Any natural benefit that “How Wolves Change Rivers” claims the reintroduction of wolves brought to Yellowstone could have been easily mimicked by mankind. Suggesting that wolves have “restored the land” back to its original state is misleading at best. The idea it could be a “man free paradise” will never happen. It was man who first changed the rivers in Yellowstone, not wolves.
From a producers standpoint, it’s easy to create beautiful scenery as a backdrop and put soothing music behind it all and find a voice that’s easy on the ears. Nicely done video but the message is left wing and oh so green. The question is “who funded this video?”
COMMENTS FROM VIEWERS (names removed)
I deleted the troll slur from my previous post as that was not polite. I still believe that the apex predators both terrestrial and aquatic are vital to balance out populations. I have fished in Yellowstone Park and have seen firsthand the problems caused by the huge elk herds. The professional elk hunting outfitters are one clique that hate wolves as they are competitors and hurt the outfitters’ bottom line….Vincint
Response: Vincent more about what is good for the ecosystem. If you people want wolves keep them in the park where no hunting allowed for excess elk herd. I could care a less about the Park. It’s the rest of the areas these vermin invested like rats that are the problem. The Selway in Idaho, once home to 20,000 elk, today stands in barren wasteland with less than 1000 elk. That is all due to an overpopulation of wolves. I go in the wilderness area I want to see wildlife not barren wasteland.
It is SO fascinating to see how nature and ecosystems self-regulate. The whole planet is like a breathing organism. Damn.
Wolves occasionally fed/scavenged on young or sick bison. 1000 years ago, humans (Native Americans) were the main predator of bison. 5 million spread across the great planes were much less concentrated than they are now in Yellowstone. Spin it any way you want, but no, wolves do not benefit nature as much as they damage it!
I know I can trust everything the narrator says because he’s British.
This is why humans should never try to control the animal population. Mother nature will always balance itself out. The wolves should’ve never been killed off in the first place.
Response: Sorry to have to explain the adult world to you but POS vermin wolves destroys the ecosystem. It takes a special kind of stupid to ignore science. PS the earth is not flat.
JD King, USFWS Biologist Jim Beers, Tom Remington, Wildlife Biologist Dr. Charles Kay
JD King Documentary “Crying Wolf”