When wolves were reintroduced in Yellowstone, some unexpected species benefitted.

On a quiet hike in Yellowstone National Park, some lucky visitors might get to hear an amazing sound: the howl of a gray wolf.

A wolf howling in the Lower Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park. Image by Jim Peaco/YellowstoneNPS.

They might even get to spot one of these beautiful animals darting across the landscape. In fact, today, the chances of seeing a wolf in some parts of this park — such as Lamar Valley — are so good that some people come just to wolf-watch.


A female wolf standing in a road near the Lamar River Bridge in Yellowstone National Park. Image by Jim Peaco/YellowstoneNPS.

But for most of the 20th century, it was impossible to view these animals at all inside the park.

In fact, it was hard to see a gray wolf anywhere in the lower 48 states. That is because ever since settlers moved west, they feared the great gray wolf. The fact that wolves started killing livestock didn’t help either.

So, starting in the late 1800s up until the 1920s, wolves were hunted and poisoned by ranchers and predator control programs in order to protect people, livestock, and other “more desirable” wildlife species.  In the end, not a single breeding pair of wolves remained in Yellowstone National Park.

Soda Butte Creek in Yellowstone National Park in October 1993. Image by Jim Peaco/YellowstoneNPS.

When Yellowstone lost its wolves, it caused some big problems for the whole ecosystem.

Wolves are apex predators, which means they are at the top of the food web. When wolves were eliminated, it caused what scientists call a top-down trophic cascade. In other words, the whole ecosystem became unbalanced.

“Most ecosystems are best when they’re balanced,” Doug Smith, project leader for the Wolf Restoration Project in Yellowstone, said in a National Park Service Q&A. “Having a lot of different kinds of things at moderate numbers is better than having a lot of any one thing.”

Without wolves, there was a lot of one thing: elk. And biodiversity across the entire park declined as a result.

Two bull elk at Blacktail Deer Plateau. Image by Neal Herbert/YellowstoneNPS.

Why? Because without one of their major natural predators, fewer elk were dying. Their numbers grew so much that they ended up overgrazing large areas of land, leaving them vulnerable to erosion and defoliation.

This hurt plants and other animal species. Willow and aspen trees started dying off — and that hurt the species that relied on these trees for their survival, such as the birds that use them as nesting grounds and the beavers that use the wood to build dams and survive the winter.

The numbers of rabbits and mice species fell, too, because of all the overgrazing. They simply had fewer places to hide from predators.

Everything started to change after scientists reintroduced 41 wolves into Yellowstone National Park.

A newly arrived wolf is released from its cage into a pen in 1996. Image by Jim Peaco/YellowstoneNPS.

From 1995 to 1997, wolves were captured in Canada and northwest Montana and transported to Yellowstone. Once there, each was radio-collared and temporarily penned so biologists could make sure they were healthy.

Then they were released into the wilderness of the park.

Park rangers prepare to release a wolf into the park in 1996. image by Jim Peaco/YellowstoneNPS.

The wolves thrived in their new home.

The newly formed packs spread out and established their territories, and the large populations of elk and deer provided them with ample prey. And because they were inside the national park, the animals were protected from hunters. So their numbers grew.

The Gibbon wolf pack in Yellowstone National Park. Image via Yellowstone/NPS.

Before long, the wolves started changing Yellowstone’s ecosystem all over again, but this time for the better.

The first thing that happened was the number of large prey dropped. In 1995, Yellowstone was home to about 18,000 elk, but by 2015, that number had dropped to 4,500, helping restore the ecosystem's natural balance.

Elk on Mount Everts in Yellowstone National Park in 2014. Image by Neal Herbert/YellowstoneNPS.

Scientists think this happened, at least in part, because wolves started to change their prey’s behavior. Deer and elk started avoiding areas where they could be easily hunted, such as open valleys and gorges, which caused those areas to regenerate. Plants started growing on the riverbanks and erosion decreased, causing rivers and streams to actually change course.

Meanwhile, birds, beavers, mice, and bears started returning to those once-barren areas.

A western meadowlark in Lamar Valley in the spring of 2015. Image by Neal Herbert/YellowstoneNPS.

The landscape of the whole park transformed, and the ecosystem as a whole became healthier.  

A grizzly bear and her cub. Image by Jim Peaco/YellowstoneNPS.

Because they are carnivores, wolves often get a bad rap — but the Yellowstone story shows just how important they are to our planet.

The ecosystem in Yellowstone is complex and always changing, but recent history has shown scientists and ecologists how important wolves are to keeping the natural balance. It is true that wolves hunt large animals, but they are not just killers — they also help other species thrive.  

A wolf from the Canyon pack in Yellowstone. Image by Diane Renkin/NPS.

We all know the story about the “the big bad wolf.” But today, Yellowstone National Park is helping us learn a different story about wolves, and this is one is a lot happier.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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