New Threat to Yellowstone Wolves
Protected from hunting and trapping, wolves in Yellowstone National Park are better able to express their natural social behavior. This benefits the wider ecosystem, long-running wolf research, ecotourism (wolf watching in Yellowstone alone is estimated to generate $35 million annually for the regional economy), as well as the wolves themselves.
When a family group of wolves is left unexploited (that is, not trapped, shot, poisoned or otherwise killed by humans), it will develop extraordinary traditions for hunting, pup-rearing, and social behaviors that are finely tuned to its precise environment and that are unique to that particular long-lived family group. Younger wolves are able to learn sophisticated hunting strategies from their elders. Better equipped to successfully hunt large prey, protected wolves can take their place as the keystone species that is so critical within the ecosystem. When it comes to wolves, it’s all about family.
But all this may change, researchers say, as more hunting is allowed beyond the park’s boundaries.