Jeannette Barnes DVM









After years battling with concerned citizens over the re-introduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park, the Fish and Wildlife service transported eight tranquilized grey wolves from Canada with the goal of establishing proper balance to the ecosystem. 

Yellowstone elk had burgeoned to record numbers, and their herds had gotten lazy in the winter time. They stayed in the meadows and along the streambeds, grazing baby willows and aspen flat to the ground. No longer driven by predators, they did not make the trek in the winter into deeper snow, where they would have to dig through the snow to find food. Their soaring numbers bloated the park.

Without the baby willows, adult trees didn’t develop. As a result, the number of songbirds declined.

Beavers, so critical in the ecosystem because the creation of dams helped with management of river water, couldn’t thrive without the young willows to munch on and make their underwater homes and dams. Without the dams, pools didn’t form properly, and fish didn’t have the cool deep water they depended on to flourish.

No one predicted the positive cascade of events that followed the introduction of the apex predator. After the wolves bred and formed their family units, elk began to respond to the pressure and vacated the stream bed edges. Willows sprouted and the gradual return of the beaver, from one family to nine families in thirty years, helped the river normalize. Elk numbers decreased, as their natural enemy established itself.

The unfolding of the Yellowstone wolf story is ongoing, and likely will continue to be for many years to come. There are advocates and detractors of the wisdom of importing the wolf into the park. Whatever your stance, this is the direct ancestor of the dog, and many of the character traits he possesses are found in the patient pet that sits by your chair (or on your lap).

The wolf is a family animal, part of a breeding pair that raises its pups jointly and is fond of his mate and pups. He has the capacity to be fierce, but is loyal and brave. Keen-witted and observant, he does not shy away from danger. Sounds like your best friend?