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Sattelite Tracking of the Successful Reintroduction of the W
Transcript of Sattelite Tracking of the Successful Reintroduction of the W
VHF radio collars
Satellite Tracking of the Successful Reintroduction of the Wolves of Yellowstone National Park
The Gray Wolf
A Local Example: Yellowstone National Park
The Reintroduction Success Story
Scientific name: Canis lupus
Average Weight: 23 and 80 kilograms
Prey of choice: Elk and other Ungulates
Color: Varied, including black to light cinnamon to white
Average Lifespan: 13 years
Social Structure: Packs of 2-20, monogamous mating
Arctic Tundra, Prairies, and Forests
Gray wolves are known as apex predators because of their dominance of their trophic level and ability to keep ungulate populations under control. Ungulates such as elk and reindeer are grazers that feed on lowland grasses and shrubbery. When a population of ungulates gets too high in an area, the vegetation suffers due to its inability to grow past juvenile stages from the ungulates grazing.
Wolves as Environmental Stewards
Why is this a problem?
A lack of plant life is known to throw off the entire interdependency of an ecosystem and has dramatic effects on biodiversity as a whole in an affected area. By keeping these populations of grazers in check, gray wolves help to maintain historical ecosystem balances and allow for the maturation and reproduction of producers in an area, making them an invaluable piece to the diversity of life picture.
With this importance, it is easily understood why there should be conservation programs developed to help in maintaining and strengthening populations of these kinds of animals
Gray wolves orginally occupied areas of Central Mexico, Northern Africa, North America, Southern Asia, and Europe
Due to their negative stigma in terms of hunting livestock, negative religious connections, and threat to humans, gray wolves were hunted and virtually exterminated from human populated areas by the beginning of the 18th century
Because of the lack of population numbers and changing attitudes about biodiversity, in 1973, gray wolves were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act and protection for them began.
With several successful reintroduction programs and continual monitoring using Global Positioning System (GPS) collars and realtime satellite tracking, many gray wolf populations around the world have been deemed recovered and removed from the endangered species list due to the populations meeting the United States Fish and Wildlife Criteria for recovered wolf populations
In the 1920s, European colonists in the area viewed the wolves as dangerous wild killers who made desirable areas uninhabitable by humans and by default should be removed.
This removal process was strengthened by the view of national parks at the time as places for human entertainment as opposed to places of conservation of nature.
The wolves were made even more unpopular as they suffered a drop in prey populations which caused them to hunt valuable livestock
History of Yellowstone Wolves
The indigenous Native Americans in the area revered the wolf as a cherished creature because of its social pack structure having similarities with human behavior. Wolves were widely included in traditional folklore as helpful guiding spirits and examples of agile and intelligent hunters
These factors led to the protection of the wolves under the Endangered Species Act in 1973 and the development of a program to bring the population of wolves up to recovered status under the United States Fish and Wildlife Criteria.
+ The purpose and mission of national reserves changed from serving as human amusement parks to spaces of preservation of nature
+ Research on the behavior and habits of wolves was conducted which helped to curb the negative opinion of the animal
+The repercussions of the removal of the apex predator in the ecosystem were seen in the decrease in vegetation due to overpopulation of ungulates
What sparked their reintroduction?
The final EIS for the Yellowstone National park took three years to complete
41 wolves from British Columbia, Alberta, and Northwestern Montana were captured, penned, and released over the next 3 years into the YNP area
GPS collars were used to monitor the pack movements and survival as well as reproduction
Currently, six of the original seven packs of reintroduced wolves are still active and five of the original seven have produced viable offspring
The entire reintroduction process began for the YNP wolves with the call for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in 1991
One of the keys to this successful reintroduction was the use of state of the art satellite tracking collars
What is it?
Affixing a collar with a tracking device on a species of study and then using the signals that the collar gives off to determine its location
How has it changed?
Transmit a signal that can be picked up and tracked by a researcher holding the receiver
Satellite GPS Collars
Orbiting satellites receiving emitted signals from an initial source (in this case, the collars on the wolves), determining location by combining multiple distance signals, and transmitting that location back to a base station
For the wolves of Yellowstone, the use of GPS collars was not only important so that managers could monitor pack dynamics, but also so that farmers could be made aware of wolf proximity to livestock. Much of the initial hesitation and animosity towards the reintroduction of the wolves came from local people who were worried about their economic livelihood in terms of their livestock becoming prey. Being able to share the knowledge of wolf movement decreased the poaching threat of the newly introduced animals greatly be reassuring farmers and allowing managers monitoring the population to intervene before conflict arose. Tracking individuals in the newly reintroduced populations also gave researchers data to be able to gauge the success of the reintroduction.
Making the Connection
With this example in mind, please reflect on the following and then provide your answers in the comments section:
A) Hypothesize some of the short term and long term benefits that the reintroduction of wolves has had on the Yellowstone National Park area
B) Describe how the removal of this apex predator had a cascade effect on an ecosystem
GO FOR IT!
Your project will be to find a local endangered organism and develop a conservation strategy for it. Your strategy should incude:
Background information on your organism
Its contributions to the interdependence of its ecosystem
An evaluation of consequences of its extinction
An action plan for protecting or working towards a reintroduction of your organism
For more information including the original manuscript,feel free to contact Kelly McClellan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The references listed below were used to verify and support ideas, data, and conclusions