Population Ecology and Wolf Intro - Lake Harding Association

Population Ecology and Wolf Intro

Population Ecology and Wolf Intro

By Micah Moen 0 Comment March 22, 2020


Our next topic is population ecology. From last week, you can remember the definition of a population. A population is all individuals of the species that live in the same geographic area and are able to
interact and interbreed. Population ecology is a subfield of biology that deals with
how populations change over time and how populations interact with the
environment. Population biologists generally study a specific population in
order to better understand how to sustain it and promote its survival.
Your textbook introduces population ecology in Chapter 9 by telling the
story of the gray wolf in Yellowstone National Park. In the early 1900s, there were 300 to 400 wolves living within the boundaries of the
other Yellowstone National Park. Then by 1926, there were zero. What
happened? Well there were several things that happened. First, intentional over-hunting. The United States Predator Control Program killed over 136 wolves
from 1914 to 1926. Also habitat destruction… cutting down trees to build
farms…. limited the wolf habitat. Third, starvation as humans in the area over-hunted the Wolves primary food sources (elk, deer, and bison). In fact, gray wolf
populations were completely extirpated from the entire western United States
by 1930. 0 wolves! In the 1980, biologists had confirmed sightings of wolves that
had migrated into Montana from Canada. Armed now is an understanding of the
importance of predators, a project began in 1994 to reintroduce wolves into
Yellowstone Park and into the regions of Idaho. Interestingly, I actually worked in
in the largest wilderness area in Idaho during the time that
we were preparing for the wolf reintroduction. In the Yellowstone and Greater
Rocky Mountain area, the wolf reintroduction programs have largely been
successful. In 2002, the program reached its goal of containing at least 300
wolves and 30 breeding pairs in three different recovery areas within Montana
Idaho and Wyoming for three consecutive years. In fact in
2012 the wolves were delisted, so removed from the federal list of endangered and
threatened species. These are the species protected by the Endangered Species Act. As of 2015, there were more than 1,600 gray wolves in the northern Rocky
Mountains, over 500 of which were in the Greater Yellowstone region and just over
100 of which were in Yellowstone National Park. Definitely a success story that
actually resulted in many positive changes to the wolf’s ecosystem…. as document in your book. I encourage you to actually check out the
Yellowstone National Park website or some of the other websites dedicated
to wolf reintroduction. Notably though, as I mentioned, wolves of
the Northern Rockies are no longer protected by Endangered Species Act, and indeed the Endangered Species Act itself is currently under attack in
Congress. So what’s to become the wolf.. and then also what’s to become of the Endangered
Species Act is still a little bit up in the air, and I encourage you to learn more.

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