Why Wolves Change Whole Ecosystems

George Monbiot & Sustainable Man
Saturday, 15th February 2014

George Monbiot explains that when wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent nearly 70 years, the most remarkable 'trophic cascade' occurred. What is a trophic cascade and how exactly do wolves change rivers? Find out in this beautiful little film.

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." - John Muir 

Visit http://sustainableman.org/ to explore the world of sustainability. For more from George Monbiot, visit http://www.monbiot.com/

To read more about wolves see Eleanor O'Hanlon's wonderful book, The Eyes of the Wild.


Exclusive content and FREE digital access to over 20 years of back issues


Trial your FREE digital copy HERE!

snowplace |
Mon, 17/02/2014 - 16:12

This video is full of misinformation. First.....they discuss deer but show elk! Then he says that the wolves kill deer calves. They are known as fawns. Also....eagles do not eat the remains of wolf kill. They eat fresh kill done by themselves. Cattle ranchers are finding that these "wonderful" animals are killing calves and fawns for FUN! They are not only killing for survival. The great regrowth of the trees could also be attributed to regeneration from the devastating fires in Yellowstone years ago. So much information is wrong that it makes this entire video suspect and lacking in credibility. Yes, wolves are beautiful and they have a place in nature. Just NOT in areas highly populated by people. And yes, I do know that Yellowstone is not necessarily highly populated but wolves travel hundreds of miles to establish their own area. This kind of misinformation is infuriating as a little research could have provided basic knowledge.

ishense |
Mon, 17/02/2014 - 17:20

wow! i'm amazed and so grateful for 'snowplace's comment. thank you for showing us how malicious this misinformed video is. what an informed expert snowplace is to know that eagles have never eaten any leftovers from a wolf kill. he/she must have done so much research and spent so much time in the field with these awful beasts to know info like that. and i give thanks for them reassuring us that wolves do NOT have a place in 'nature' where people have high population densities (nevermind the fact that our zombie civil-lie-zation is destroying the habitat of all life on earth (humans included), and replacing it with concrete dungle cities, monocrop poison experiments (industrial ag.), and moonscape mining scars). and they're also right about how far wolves travel to establish new pack territory, unlike the angelic cattle ranchers of european descent, who have been ranching in these areas of the west for, gosh, forever! the ranchers were there first! and lastly, i'm just so glad snowplace revealed the gruesome fact that wolves KILL for FUN! those ungodly beasts, so unlike us, we god-fearing wisest of the wise humans who ONLY kill for survival! i can't imagine any other creatures killing for fun, what a ghastly thought...hey, whats that wimpy looking guy doing hanging out of that helicopter, pointing a high-powered rifle with a scope at that wolf running for cover from the armageddon-like sounds of the heli-rotors slicing through the air?

ftnecessity |
Mon, 17/02/2014 - 21:09

Without taking the over the top sarcastic approach of ishense who is obviously working through some issues with white european ranchers, I would say that snowplace has some of his own misinformation. Sure the video is a bit one sided and appears to make the wolf a miracle creature while things like regrowth from cleansing fires are overlooked. But the bald eagle does eat, along with fish and small mammals, carrion. A quick google search will tell you that. In fact in the 1780's Ben Franklin famously wrote a letter explaining one of the reasons he preferred a wild turkey to an eagle for a national symbol was because he observed eagles stealing the food of other birds along the river. This food was already dead. Previously killed. Carrion. Eagles are excellent hunters, but also opportunists. Also, while it is true that the video shows elk throughout (not deer), there may be some confusion because the british word elk actually describes what we in the U.S. call moose. And since elk are in the deer family, not technically wrong.

Friar Tuck |
Mon, 03/03/2014 - 08:38

Aside from all the technicalities and nit picking....

What a wonderful bunch of misinformation, and 1 sided reporting on a very disgusting topic.
What the educated idiots did, has a minor happy outcome. The trees along the river are back.
There was a problem. So the ones causing the problems (man) figured a face saving way out (at taxpayer expense).
They also forgot to build a fence to keep the d*mned wolves in the park.

For years the Park Service opened the gates once a year in hunting season and ran the excess elk (moose, deer) out of the park. Yes it was a slaughter, and yes there were cameras there. It was disgusting to some, but it fed others.
Man's misguided interference lead to an overpopulation of elk.
A lot better way would have probably been to issue x number of permits to hunters for a few $$$ to put back into the taxpayer funded kitty. The hunters would have reduced the overpopulation of elk, swiftly and humanely.
Instead, the educated idiots introduced wolves, who thrived and bred.

Yes, wolves only kill the weak and injured Elk (so the biologists say). But, before any killing takes place, the wolves chase, and hamstring, the elk until they are weak and injured.
Have any of you bleeding heart do-gooders had the opportunity to watch a wolf pack chase wildlife? Did you enjoy watching a cow elk stand and watch a few wolves attack a calf elk? And no, the calf wasn't dead. It was being eaten alive, and calling, and crying to it's mother just a few yards away, but helpless to do anything. Then, just to make this an interesting story; after the calf was dead, the wolf pack turned on the cow elk and chased her down. And guess what! The wolves ate on her while she was still alive (at least until she was dead).
I feel I have to give you this wakeup visual image, because all those (top notch journalists???) won't show, or even mention that.
As this story progresses, now the elk herd has been decimated, and there's lots of hungry wolves around. Where do they go? Yup, right for the nearest herd of cattle. These cattle are owned by tax-paying citizens.
OOPS, they only pay taxes if they make a profit.

Now, according to a Nat Geo report I've seen, the wolves themselves are overpopulated, mite infested, and are now subject to a horrible death from the mites causing the wolves to rub the itch, which removes the hair, which causes loss of body heat, which results in hypothermia.

Starting to make a hunters bullet look pretty humane, and all the wasted tax dollars all for naught.

We should take the wolves that are left and stuff them, then put them on display with the Dodo Bird.