Yellowstone wolves spur recovery of bears’ berries

Reintroduced wolves being carried to acclimati...

Reintroduced wolves being carried to acclimation pens, Yellowstone National Park, January, 1995. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Balance of Nature

Elk, berries, bear
all share the same domain,
pawns in nature’s game
of balance.
Bear eats elk,
elk eat berries,
bear eats berries too.
Berries use elk and bear
to propagate their seed elsewhere,
to spread.
They live, consume, reproduce,
follow the continuum
and then they’re dead.
Life in equilibrium.

Enter the wolf,
not a lone wolf
not the solitary, silver timber wolf
but a pack,
a phalanx of wolves
disturbing the balance.

Bear eat berries to hibernate;
bear eat elk to generate.
Wolves eat elk too.
Less elk, more berries.
More berries, more bear.
More bear, less elk.
Less elk, less wolves.
Less wolves, more elk.
More elk, less berries.
Less berries, less bear.
And there’s the conundrum –
the circle of life
in its delicate balance,
life-threads entangled;
its yin and its yang,
its black and its white
and the grey of the wolf that prowls in the night
disturbing that circle of life.



29th July 2013 – headline from the BBC

Notes:  “Yellowstone wolves spur recovery of bears’ berries.”  The return of wolves to Yellowstone National Park may be leading to an improvement in the diet of grizzly bears, a study suggests.  When wolves were eradicated from Yellowstone in the early 20th Century, the elk population boomed, devastating berry-shrubs relied upon by bears.  A team from Oregon and Washington links the reintroduction of predatory wolves with a fall in over-browsing by elk.  There is a consequent recovery in the availability of late-summer berries, the favoured pre-hibernation food of the grizzly bear.  The study indicates that the number of berries measured in bear droppings has doubled as elk numbers have decreased, following the wolves’ return in the 1990s.  The complex interactions of the Yellowstone ecosystem were revealed in data measured before and after the reintroduction of wolves though in a vast landscape such as the greater Yellowstone ecosystem it is very difficult to unravel the complexity of the patterns.  The latest results demonstrate that acknowledging the many inter-relationships between species and environments in these systems is key to understanding that complexity.

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