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The wolves of Yellowstone that once roamed freely have dwindled in numbers. Wolves are keystone species in their ecosystem. A keystone species is an animal that, if they disappear, create problems in an ecosystem. Yellowstone was set in place to reserve beautiful land and protect the animals in it. The Yellowstone wolves should be protected from hunting and human interference. Wolves live in packs with their family roaming vast areas.
The wolves live in one area for most of the year where they are able to hunt elk and moose. They go up and down elevations in the mountains to find prey. In the winter they partially migrate around to find food. In January through February, they mate. The wolves habits primarily are based on their eating habits. Being a keystone species, the wolves, as predators, directly affect what they eat. The wolves eat elk and moose when they are plenty but they also eat smaller prey like rabbits. As the moose populations become out of control they graze upon the land and eat down helpful plants. The wolves in Yellowstone, when they were reintroduced, reduced the size of the populations of their prey similar as to wolves on an island: “wolf restoration will have similar effects to a degree, reducing elk and coyote density” (McCafferty, Predator, and prey).
The wolves affect the population density of elk and moose. Moose populations show the change in wolf populations, which have fluctuated over the years. Yellowstone’s wolves have been endangered and have been reintroduced to Yellowstone. The wolves live in a varying climate, part of which is in the snow. This means they have large full coats. Fur hunters and trappers have been taking advantage of the lush fur for hundreds of years. The fur trade has gone on for years dating back to early America. The fur trade dwindled the populations of wolves for years. Hunting has been banned in order for the wolves populations to pick back up. In the recent years hunting the wolves is allowed again: “gray wolves in the northern Rockies came off the endangered species list and became a legal game for the first time in decades”( McCafferty Predator and prey).
The wolves have come back in population numbers, but hunting isn’t the only thing hindering the full comeback of the wolves. The wolves need large areas to roam in the winter. Humans cut that space in pieces by houses, ranches, farms, highways, and cities. Wolves are in the same area as humans: “Whatever the reasons, humans are at war with wolves. It is all ancient dispute over territory and food between their clans and ours, and its battleground spreads across the northern Rocky Mountain states and right up to the door of my remote cabin near Montana’s Glacier National Park. A young female named Diane marked the place by peeing on the front-porch mat.”
The major highways from Yellowstone all the way into Canada have split breading grounds for moose, bears, and wolves. The large highways are not easy passages for these animals. The cars that go by are coming across in 6 lanes both directions making crossing these roads impossible. The animals that do cross are hit by cars and cause major accidents. The country is not easy for these animals either. Farmers let their cows and other animals graze and these animals are easy prey. They are forced to stay in pens and have no escape from the wolves and coyotes. Farmers, in order to protect their livelihood, kill the wolves that encroach on their territory.
Since the reintroduction of the wolves, the problem has increased. Farmers are having to check on their animals more than before. Houses that go along with these farms also fear for their safety. Wolves will eat their pets and terrorize their children. The wolves are just moving back into territory known to the hundreds of years ago. Wolves, as a keystone species in Yellowstone Park, affect the environment around them. Wolves keep other populations in check. Wolves eat elk and moose. Elk and moose are grazing animals. They eat grasses and berries and other plants off the ground.
These large animals eat large quantities of food in their lifetime. Without the wolves pushing them into other territories, these animals will overgraze. When they overgraze they do not only remove plant species they take away home from other animals. Birds will not have a place to land if their trees cannot pollinate because their fruit was eaten off by overgrazing moose and elk. Rabbits will be eaten by hawks at a greater volume because their cover has bee eaten away. Mice and other small rodents have the same fate. These animals disappearing also cause a problem for humans. Yellowstone was land set aside for nature to be preserved. This preserved land is there to be observed: “Today the wolf helps maintain a natural balance in the northern Rockies by forcing elk to vary their grazing patterns, which allows crucial streamside vegetation to stay robust; and by keeping the coyote population in check, which in turn benefits the pronghorn antelope and the red fox” (Albu, wolf pact). If the wolves die off there will be no wolves to see when people visit Yellowstone. The overgraze land will also be a problem for visitors. The beautiful flowers will have been mowed down by the abundance of moose. There will be fewer birds because the birds will not be able to eat off of the seeds of plants and trees. Moose are also large animals that could crush a car if it was hit by one. The wolves keep the moose in check which in turn helps keep Yellowstone’s beauty intact. If the wolves aren’t saved there will be consequences.
The main impact on the wolves is humans. The humans develop and encroach on the animals territory. Every year for thousands of years the human population has grown exponentially which requires the need for more and more land. As the humans take over more land they limit the amount of land available for other animals. Humans also need transportation from one place to another so they build roads and highways that cut up vast areas of land. The wolves have been part of several plans to help them. The wolves were first studied for long periods of time. The first studying began in order to trap them. These first studies gave researchers data to compare to in order to see trends in wolf population density. The wolves have been put on the endangered list because there was a measurable significant drop in population. They have been bred in captivity and relocated inside Yellowstone to increase population density in Yellowstone. Yellowstone National Park is a large amount of land set aside by the government to preserve the land it is on. There are parks all across the world similar to Yellowstone. Large animals need large amounts of land to travel within. Moose, elk, and bear need large roaming areas. Wolves are predators to moose and elk. They roam with their prey over vast areas of land spreading thousands of miles. Highways have split up moose and elk. Highways also split up different families of wolves. As wolves are split from different populations they are forced to interbreed in order to keep the population going. This decreases biodiversity, which is needed to ensure strong pups.
The project Yellowstone to Yukon is the connecting of state parks by expanding the parks and creating safe passages for animals to scavenge, hunt, and breeding. Yellowstone, a park in the United States, would expand its borders a little further out. It would be connected to several other parks all the way to Yukon National Park, a park in Canada. The connection would be expanding and creating national reserves and parks. These would uproot homes, farms, and roads. It would be impossible because it would mean closing down whole towns. However, there is a solution. The solution would require hard work from citizens who are just trying to go about daily life. Farmers would have to create “safe passages” in order for the parks to be connected. Specific fences that keep their livestock from leaving but allow deer to pass through is just one example of a safe passage. Another could be having specific paths laid out for wolves so the livestock is not eaten. The main problem is main roads and highways that splinter the animals. The roads cannot be removed because they are important for human travel. However, wildlife can still live above and below these roads. There are large bridges and tunnels that animals use the cross the road.
These projects take a long time to build and cost a lot of money. They do save lives. Fewer car accidents will be caused by animals trying to cross. Researchers can also gather data about animals at these crossings by looking at cameras set up along the entrance. These tough sacrifices are going to have to be made in order to protect the wildlife that humans live in. The project Yellowstone to Yukon is a big undertaking and has already been worked on for 25 years, since 1993. The project will take the support of the citizens and the government of the United States and Canada to be accomplished: “at 2000 miles (3,200 km) long with a diversity of challenges and opportunities, this trans-boundary landscape demands a multi-pronged approach” (Y2Y, How: Protect. Connect. Inspire.).
It includes expanding parks, creating new reserved land, connecting farms by safe passages, and creating conservation laws. Yellowstone to Yukon is not just about saving the wolves. It is about saving all wildlife between these two national parks. This is a vast stretch of land and it will not be an easy feat to conserve it. People will need to raise awareness of this project in order for it to happen. The project will be expensive so donations are important. Government aid in funding the projects is also key. Raising awareness of the project is the way people can get the attention of the government. The wolves that once roamed Yellowstone and the surrounding area started to disappear.
They changed the ecosystem and the landscape. The wolves, after being put on the endangered list, are returning to their natural roaming habitat. They are keeping moose and coyote populations in check, which helps the surrounding ecosystem. Yellowstone to Yukon is a project that is set out to help all the wildlife between these two parks, which is good for wolves. The wolves, as a keystone species, is important to protect and it is possible.
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