Join the WildeNest Wilde Pack, and find your way to a wilder life
Why a Pack, you may ask? Earlier this year, I visited a wolf sanctuary in Colorado, USA. I was so inspired by the nature of the wolf that I began to consider what we can learn from these wilde friends. From surviving to thriving, wolves have the power to change the course of nature.
And as a Wilde pack, we have the potential to do the same.
The history of the Great American Wolf
Over a century ago, wolves lived in harmony with indigenous tribes in the United States. It is estimated that up to half a million of these majestic creatures roamed freely across the plains, prairies, woodlands and forests, and played vital roles in the ecosystem. Sadly, all of this changed during the 1960s when Americans began waging war against the wolves. Perceived as pests and a threat to one of the country's most lucrative industries; agriculture, wolves were hunted to the brink of extinction. The wolf population was more or less obliterated as people were encouraged to massacre wolves by any means necessary. Whilst people were hunting wolves, little did they realise that humanity was (once again) shooting itself in the foot.
In 1973, the wolf population was so decimated that the US Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Rocky Mountain wolf as an endangered species. By 1995, efforts to protect and rehabilitate the wolf’s image resulted in the reintroduction of wild wolves to Yellowstone National Park. This afforded scientists and conservationists an important opportunity to study this trophic cascade, nature’s ecological waterfall that starts at the top of the food chain and trickles down to the bottom, bringing into balance the entire ecosystem.
Where there's a Will, there's a Wolf
In Yellowstone National Park, the wolves were killed off during the 1930s. This took a great deal of predatory pressure off the deer and elk population, who proceeded to overgraze vegetation, and the woodland areas of aspen and willow. Both of these act as integral vegetative homes for a plethora of other species, including birds, beavers and fish. As their homes were diminished, so were their own populations. The boom in the elk population challenged the sustainability of the Park.
What happened when wolves were finally awarded the protection they deserved through their reintroduction into the Park? Something magical . . .
The presence of the wolves made the previously complacent elk more vigilant and active. They migrated to different parts of the park, allowing areas that had previously been overgrazed to flourish. Trees grew taller, flora returned, and many species of birds, muskrats and fish were restored to thriving numbers. The abundance of food sources and habitat growth meant that more and more beavers built dams. Beavers improve the overall hydrology of a river by enhancing the self purification mechanism, providing shade to fish and therefore improving their aquatic habitat.
The wolves strengthened carrion species, such as eagles, hawks, bears, and ravens. Before the reintroduction of the wolves, these species relied upon elk carrion from harsh winters. Now, elk carrion is more evenly distributed throughout the seasons, providing a more predictable and consistent food source for these species to survive the winter. In addition to deer and elk, the wolves hunted coyotes. With less coyotes hunting the smaller mammals, such as rabbits and mice, their numbers also began to rise. In turn, the population of their primary predators: hawks, weasels, foxes and badgers, rose. With more berries on the regenerated shrubs, there were greater feeding opportunities for foraging creatures, such as bears.
Finally, wolves allowed riparian vegetation (plant vegetation and communities found alongside riverbanks) to thrive, as they were no longer being overgrazed. As they grew and strengthened, so did their roots, improving soil stability and minimising soil erosion. The wolves changed the course of the rivers.
The Wilde Pack is modelled on this amazing natural phenomenon. Wolves play a pivotal role in the health and wellbeing of all other flora and fauna within their ecosystems, as well as the topography of their environment. They are ecosystem engineers, manufacturing environments in which other species can thrive. Like the elk, we over-graze and over-consume. Our plastic problem has meant that we lay waste to our environment.
It is the intention of WildeNest to unite us as a pack, working cohesively and conscientiously, to restore balance and promote environmental stewardship.
As the late Uncle Ben and Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said, with great power comes great responsibility . . . welcome to the Wilde Pack.