Monday, August 12, 2013

Yellowstone Wolves Working with Bears to Bring Back Blackberries

I hope someday that we get over ourselves and understand that the predator prey cycle is non linear and needs to be directly managed to achieve an optimal balance that is naturally sustainable over the centuries.

The elk, the bear and the wolves must be culled every year to an attractive balance that allows more elk, less wolves and less bears.  It will not be far of the current count, but the elk population is about to collapse.  After which we will be forced to feed or cull hungry wolves stepping outside the park.

The same holds true for the burgeoning herds of deer in farm country.  They must be managed by direct means and that means operating a proper harvest and selling the meat.

Of course, all our surplus horses can be set free in Yellowstone to feed the wolves.  Joking of course, but not acting is a truly bad joke.  It is all about practical husbandry that optimizes the productivity of land and soil.

Yellowstone wolves working with bears to bring back berries
Wolves work with bears to protect berries.

Rick Docksai | Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The bears of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming are eating better than usual these days, and they have their neighbors the wolves to thank for it. Specifically, the bears are once again feasting on berry shrubs, which had grown scarce 20 years ago due to elk overfeeding on them. The wolves, however, are now eating some of the elk before those elk have a chance to eat all the berries. The bears come out ahead, with more berries to be had. In turn, the bear’s numbers grow—researchers have counted three to four times as many bears in the park today compared to earlier years.

Human officials reintroduced the wolves to the park in the 1990s in hopes that they might bring down the elk population, which at that time had grown too big for the park’s limited living space in the absence of any natural predators to thin out their herds.

In a study recently published in the Journal of Animal Ecology, wildlife researchers from Oregon and Washington identified a decline in elk grazing to more moderate levels, and they found a cause for it in the reintroduction years earlier of the elk-eating wolves.

The researchers also analyzed bear droppings and found that the frequency of traces of berries appearing therein had doubled from before the wolves’ reintroduction, confirming their hypothesis that the bears were now enjoying a fruity bounty. Even more evidence showed in the vegetation itself—the researchers spotted more berry shrubs than they had remembered from earlier expeditions.

These berries are, incidentally, a very important food to bears. The bears favor them over any other food choice for grub to stock up on in the late summer, right before their hibernation season starts. The bears need to put on weight during this time of year, or else they may not make it through the winter season. It could be said that the berries keep many bears alive.

They also feed on elk, though—primarily elk calves. In the spring months, after the bears have awakened from their winter slumber, they replenish themselves with elk meat. A stable elk population—numerous, but not too numerous—is thus in the bears’ interests, too.

Human hunters can and do keep elk and deer populations in check in many parts of the country. Yellowstone, however, does not permit hunting. As such, the job of elk population control in Yellowstone must fall on the wolves and bears.

Unfortunately, the park may now be achieving too much of a good thing. The elk population was down to just 3,900 specimens last winter, compared to 19,000 in 1988. The surging bear population may be weighing too heavily on the elk, according to the researchers. Close monitoring will be necessary in seasons to come to help maintain species balance.

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