More from Unsplash.
These are of the wolf, the forerunner of dogs.
Very beautiful photographs.
More from Unsplash.
These are of the wolf, the forerunner of dogs.
Very beautiful photographs.
This is a brilliant and very informative video.
I have long followed George Monbiot and was delighted to find that he is the narrator on this video. The film was shot by Sustainable Human, an organisation that I hadn’t come across before. But I will look more closely at their website.
It is not long but it is full of surprises.
When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent nearly 70 years, the most remarkable “trophic cascade” occurred. What is a trophic cascade and how exactly do wolves change rivers? George Monbiot explains.
There you go!
A very close relative to the domestic dog.
Indeed until a short time ago it was thought that the dog evolved from the grey wolf but recently I read that the dog evolved as its own species.
But the following is a republication of an article on Oregon Wild about wolves returning to the State of Oregon.
Wolves in Oregon
Gray wolves (Canis lupus) were once common in Oregon, occupying most of the state. However, a deliberate effort to eradicate the species was successful by the late 1940s.
In fact, trouble for wolves began almost 100 years earlier, in the years before Oregon became a state. In 1843 the first wolf bounty was established and Oregon’s first legislative session was called in part to address the “problem of marauding wolves.” By 1913, people could collect a $5 state bounty and an Oregon State Game Commission bounty of $20. The last recorded wolf bounty was paid out in 1947.
After an absence of over half a century, wolves began to take their first tentative steps towards recovery. Having dispersed from Idaho, the native species is once again trying to make a home in Oregon. One of the first sightings came in 1999 when a lone wolf was captured near the middle fork of the John Day River, put in a crate and quickly returned to Idaho by government wildlife agents. In 2000, two wolves were found dead – one killed by a car, the other illegally shot.
In 2006, a flurry of sightings led biologists to believe a number of wild wolves were living in Northeast Oregon near the Wallowa Mountains and the Eagle Cap Wilderness. Sadly, a wolf found shot to death near La Grande in May 2007 clearly indicated wolves had arrived in the area.
After that sad chapter, wolves began to establish a fragile foothold in the state. In July 2008 pups were confirmed to a wolf named Sophie by the Oregon Wild wolf pack (and B-300 to government biologists). Those pups represented the first wolves in Oregon in nearly 60 years! A second set of six pups were confirmed and videotaped in November 2009. The following July, a third litter of pups was confirmed.
Unfortunately, the news was tempered with additional poaching and heavy-handed state management. After peaking at 26 confirmed wolves, wolf recovery stalled out in 2011. While some wolves dispersed from the Imnaha Pack, only one pup was confirmed to Oregon’s best-known pack, and two pups were confirmed in one of the state’s other two packs (the Walla Walla and Wenaha). Oregon’s confirmed wolf population fell to 17, and then to 14, when the state killed three more wolves (two on purpose) and poachers killed a fourth.
In 2011, wolves in Eastern Oregon lost their federal protections due to an unprecedented congressional budget rider sponsored by Montana Sen. John Tester. Hours later, Oregon used their new authority to kill two wolves and issue dozens of landowner kill permits at the request of the livestock industry.
Meanwhile, anti-wildlife interests and their political allies pushed over half a dozen bills in Salem aimed at making it easier to kill wolves and undermine wolf recovery. Most of the bills were defeated, but a compensation fund and new predator killing fund were approved.
Wolf hunts in nearby states also threaten the region’s fragile recovery. When wolves were federally delisted the region was home to an estimated population of about 1,700 wolves. Over 1,000 were killed in the first two seasons alone.
The large tracts of pristine and unspoiled Wilderness and roadless areas in Northeast Oregon are vital components in the successful recovery of wolves, and other wildlife too. (Ed: see the photograph below of the wild lands of Oregon.) The reappearance of wolves, wolverines, and other endangered wildlife in Oregon further underscores the importance of protecting those roadless areas that remain on public land.
Anticipating the eventual return of wolves, the state of Oregon completed a Wolf Conservation and Management Plan in 2005 aimed at making rational decisions in the light of day that would lead to wolf recovery. Though state polling put support for wolf recovery at over 70 percent, the plan was weak, allowed the state to kill wolves, and set scientifically indefensible recovery goals.
Even so, the plan was actively opposed by the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association. They argued in their minority report that “wolves are being used as a biological weapon” and that wolves are a non-native species that citizens should have the right to shoot without permits.
Oregon Wild and other conservationists generally – if reluctantly – agreed to honor the compromise embodied in the plan. Most believed lethal control would be an option of last resort and conservation would be a priority.
After the state shot two young wolves in response to the first livestock depredations in over half a century, it was clear the state was willing to address the concerns of the livestock industry by killing wolves.
In 2010, the plan was reviewed and revised. The public process took the better part of a year and demonstrated that support for wolf recovery had grown. Over 90 percent of a staggering 20,000 public comments were in favor of stronger protections for Oregon’s endangered gray wolves. Oregon Wild joined other conservationists and the Oregon public in defending the plan against continued attacks. Though the plan survived relatively intact, most of the approved changes made it easier to kill wolves.
In 2011, a lone wolf from the Imnaha Pack generated international headlines when he became the first in Western Oregon since 1947, and then the first in California in nearly a century. The story of Journey (OR-7) provided a welcome opportunity to step away from the unnecessary controversy manufactured by those opposed to wolf recovery and instead reflect on the positive story of a native species retaking its rightful place on the landscape.
Since 2012, wolf recovery in Oregon has slowly started to get back on track. Although the population has increased over the last several years, in 2015, and with only 78 known adult wolves in the state, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and its Commission decided to prematurely strip wolves of state Endangered Species Act protections — despite what peer reviewed, independent scientists recommended. Shortly after, lawmakers in Salem passed HB 4040: a bill that statutorily affirmed the delisting of Oregon’s wolves. The passage of HB 4040 essentially blocked the ability of conservation organizations to bring forth a lawsuit challenging the merits of the Commission’s decision.
The latest update to the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan — which was approved by the Commission in June of 2019 — significantly erodes protections for wolves by lowering the threshold for when the state can kill wolves, removing requirements for non lethal conflict deterrence, and opening the door toward public hunting and trapping.
For many, wolves are a symbol of freedom, wilderness, and the American west, and Oregon’s wolf country contains some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. Science continues to demonstrate the positive impacts of wolves on the landscape and the critical role played by big predators, and interest in their return is fueling tourism in Oregon’s wolf country and elsewhere in the west.
Still, wolves are threatened by a purposeful campaign of misinformation and fear. This webpage shoots down many of the common myths about wolves. A small number of vocal anti-wolf activists, along with industry lobbyists and their political allies, continue to work to undermine already weak protections for wolves and other wildlife.
For a state that prides itself on its green reputation, the extermination of wolves is one of our greatest environmental tragedies. Their return represents an opportunity at redemption.
Most Oregonians value native wildlife and believe wolves have a rightful place on the landscape. We are happy to know the silence of a hike in the Eagle Cap might be broken by the lonely howl of a wolf. If that howl is to remain, it’s critical that those who value wolves and other native wildlife stand up and speak up on their behalf.
Plus there were photographs embedded within the text that I thought would be better appreciated if they were offered separately. Here they are:
Finally a collection of wolf photographs from a link on Oregon Wild that is no longer in use. I downloaded these pictures in 2016!
Long may they prosper!
I subscribe to Ugly Hedgehog, a forum about all things photographic.
It is a mine of information, people share incredible photographs, and much more.
On February 17th this year Photolady2014 published a set of photographs of wolves that were just gorgeous.
This is how she introduced the pictures:
So I am still on cloud 9 seeing wolfs rather close. They were about 150 feet away. Not the quality that the pros were getting who were there. I have seen their photos and well I still have a lot to learn. But, for someone who just started wildlife a couple of years ago, I will take these! If you do the download you will see they are not all bad. I have had to do some sharpening and noise reduction. The pros were all using the 600mm F4 with 2x extenders.
Me: Canon R5, 100-500 & 1.4 extender. All are at 700mm.
I asked if I could share them on Learning from Dogs and said Photolady2014 of South West Colorado said ‘Yes’.
Here they are:
Photolady went on to report:
This is the Wapiti pack in Yellowstone.
We sat in below 0 weather for about 4 hours watching them and the coyotes who were patiently waiting their turn to eat!
Fabulous pictures and one can’t help thinking that some 23,000 years ago there started the long journey of domestication, and the bonding between humans and wolves brought about the dog.
It doesn’t get any better than that!
A very interesting article in The Smithsonian Magazine.
There are countless breeds of dogs and they represent thousands of years of breeding.
But recent work in determining the genetic background behind the many different features of dogs has revealed so much.
The Smithsonian Magazine published an article nearly a month ago and hopefully it is alright to share it with you.
A new study looks at the genes that underlie traits from self control to communication
By Viviane Callier, July 31, 2020
Thousands of years of selective dog breeding has created a fantastic diversity of domestic canine companions, from the workaholic border collie to the perky Pomeranian. In cultures around the world, humans bred different dogs to be good at tasks including guarding, hunting and herding. Later, in Victorian England, kennel clubs established breed standards related not only to their behavior, but also their appearance.
As genomic sequencing has become more affordable, scientists have begun to understand the genes behind physical features such as body shape and size. But understanding the genes behind dog cognition—the mental processes that underlie dogs’ ability to learn, reason, communicate, remember, and solve problems—is a much trickier and thornier task. Now, in a pair of new studies published in Animal Cognition and in Integrative and Comparative Biology, a team of researchers has begun to quantify just how much variation in dog cognition exists, and to show how much of it has a genetic basis.
To study canine cognition, the studies’ authors turned to publicly available genetic information from a 2017 study, and a large community science project, Dognition.com, in which dog owners tested their own pets. “These papers offer an exciting integration of two forms of big data,” says Jeff Stevens, a psychologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who was not involved in the study.
Previous studies often compared cognition in one breed against another using small sample sizes of dogs from each. This study, by contrast, is the first to examine the variation in cognition across three dozen breeds, and the genetic basis of that variation, explains Evan MacLean, a comparative psychologist at the University of Arizona who oversaw the pair of new studies. MacLean says dog breeds may be an ideal way to study the heritability of cognitive traits because breeds—all part of the same species—represent close genetic relatives with an incredibly diverse range of appearances and behaviors.
To gather a sufficient amount of data on how dogs reason and solve problems, the researchers looked to the Dognition.com portal. The initiative, created by Duke University dog researcher Brian Hare, started with tests in the lab. Researchers developed methods to understand how dogs think. They then stripped those methods down, and simplified them for dog owners to do themselves. In an earlier project, the researchers tested dogs in the lab and compared their results to those from owners testing the same dog at home. The results were the same, giving them confidence that the results from the citizen science project were reliable.
To participate in this project, dog owners tested their pups on 11 standardized tasks used by animal behaviorists on a variety of species that reflect four aspects of cognition: inhibitory control, communication, memory and physical reasoning. One task that measured inhibitory control, for example, involved having an owner put a treat on the floor in front of the dog and then verbally forbidding the dog from taking it. The owner then measured how long the dog would wait before eating the treat. In a task to assess communication skills, the dog owner placed two treats on the ground and gestured towards one of them. The owner then determined if the dog approached the indicated treat. To assess memory, the owner visibly placed food under one of two cups, waited for a few minutes, and then determined if the dog remembered which cup the food was placed under. To test physical reasoning, the owner hid food under one of two cups, out of view of the dog. The owner lifted the empty cup to show the dog that there was no food and then assessed whether the dog approached the cup with the food underneath.
The participating dog owners reported their dog’s scores and breed, producing a dataset with 1,508 dogs across 36 breeds. The researchers analyzed the scores and found that about 70 percent of the variance in inhibitory control was heritable, or attributable to genes. Communication was about 50 percent heritable, while memory and physical reasoning were about 20 percent heritable.
“What’s so cool about that is these two traits that are highly heritable [control and communication] are those that are thought to be linked to dogs’ domestication process,” says Zachary Silver, a graduate student in the Canine Cognition Center at Yale who was not involved in the study.
Dogs are better at following humans’ communicative cues than wolves, and this is something that seems to be highly heritable, explains Silver. In contrast, there’s some evidence that wolves are better than dogs at physical reasoning.
Some of these traits are also influenced by environment and how the dog was handled as a puppy, so there are both genetic and environmental components. In fact, there is so much environmental and experiential influence on these traits that Gitanjali Gnanadesikan, a graduate student in MacLean’s lab and lead author of the new studies, cautions against the idea that these findings support certain breed restrictions or stereotypes. “Even the highly heritable traits have a lot of room for environmental influence,” she says. “This shouldn’t be interpreted as, ‘each of these breeds is just the way they are, and there’s nothing that can be done about it.’”
In the same way that women are on average shorter than men, but there’s quite a lot of overlapping variation within each sex, dog breeds also show a lot of variation within each breed that overlaps with variation among breeds.
Previous work has linked differences in inhibitory control to the estimated size of dogs’ brains. Comparative studies across many different species, ranging from tiny rodents to elephants and chimpanzees, also show that some aspects of self-control are strongly related to brain size. The bigger the brain size, the more self-control the animals seem to have, MacLean says.
Stevens notes that a lot of things—not just inhibitory control—correlate with brain size across species. And brain size, metabolic rate, lifespan, home range size are all correlated with body size. When many traits are correlated with each other, it is not clear which of these factors may underlie the cognitive differences. So there are a number of questions remaining to be explored.
After showing the degree to which different aspects of dog cognition are heritable, Gnanadesikan and MacLean used publicly available information on the genomes of dog breeds to search for genetic variation that was associated with the cognitive traits of interest. The researchers found that, like many other complex traits, there were many genes, each with small effect, that contribute to dogs’ cognitive traits. That is in contrast to morphological features in dogs; about 50 percent of variation in dog body size can be accounted for by variation in a single gene.
One of the limitations of the study is that the researchers did not have cognitive and genetic information from the same dogs; the genomes were breed averages. In the future, the researchers are planning to collect genetic data from the very same dogs that are completing the cognitive tests, to get measures of cognitive and genetic variation at the level of individual dogs. “This gives us a roadmap for places that we might want to look at more carefully in the future,” MacLean explains.
Now this is an article that deserves to be read carefully so if you are in a hurry bookmark this and wait until you can sit and absorb the messages the article contains.
I was minded to look up Gitanjali’s details and I am glad I did. These are the details:
I am an evolutionary biologist and comparative psychologist who is interested in social behavior and cognition. I work with Evan MacLean in the Arizona Canine Cognition Center studying the development and evolution of behavior and cognition in dogs and wolves.
I think I will reach out to her and see if she has more information she would like to share with us all.
A very interesting article in Scientific American magazine!
A single page article in this month’s Scientific American magazine is fascinating. The sub-heading is: “An amicable disposition also governed the course of evolution for an animal that turned into a favorite pet.”
A little later on in the article one reads:
When our research group began its work almost 20 years ago, we discovered that dogs also have extraordinary intelligence: they can read our gestures better that any other species, even bonobos and chimpanzees. Wolves, in contrast, are mysterious and unpredictable. Their home is the wilderness, and that wilderness is shrinking.
The article was written by Prof. Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods and is part of a much longer piece on Homo sapiens.
In fact tomorrow I shall republish a post I wrote in 2015 about the origins of the dog!
A widely-reported study shows the depth to which dogs understand us.
I have included both!
I’ll comment at the end of the articles.
By Brigit Katz
Dogs are famously good at interpreting human signals, whether communicated verbally or through gestures. But much of what we know about our furry friends’ comprehension of social cues focuses on pet dogs, which share close relationships with their owners and are trained to follow commands. Now, a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, suggests that stray dogs can also understand human gestures, indicating that this ability might be innate.
The new research took place on the streets of several regions in India, which is home to some 30 million stray dogs. Coexistence between canines and humans there is not always peaceful; people have been known to attack street dogs, and vice versa. Around 36 percent of the world’s annual rabies deaths occur in India, most of them children who came into contact with infected dogs.
To better manage the country’s street dogs, it’s essential to gain further knowledge of their behavior, Anindita Bhadra, study co-author and animal behaviorist at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Kolkata, tells Liz Langley of National Geographic. So she and her colleagues set out to discover whether strays, which have never undergone specific training, are able to understand humans in a similar way to their pet counterparts.
The researchers took to the streets equipped with two bowls; one contained chicken and the other was empty but had been rubbed with raw chicken, transferring the food’s scent. The bowls were covered with pieces of cardboard and handed to an experimenter who did not know which one contained the snack. This researcher would approach a stray dog, place the bowls on the ground and point at one of them, sometimes momentarily, sometimes repeatedly.
In total, the researchers studied 160 adult strays. Around half of them refused to get close to either bowl, perhaps because they had negative interactions with humans in the past, the researchers speculate. But of the dogs that did approach the bowls, approximately 80 percent went to the one to which the experimenter had pointed. Whether the researcher had pointed to the bowl briefly or repeatedly did not seem to matter. This response, according to the study authors, suggests that untrained stray dogs are “capable of following complex pointing cues from humans.”
Dogs share an intertwined evolutionary history with humans, with domesticated pooches emerging at least 10,000 to 15,000 years ago, though some experts have argued for an even earlier date. This close contact has prompted dogs to develop a number of skills that allow them to communicate with people, including interpreting human emotion. Still, Bhadra says, the researchers found it “quite amazing” that stray dogs without a history of close human interaction were able to “follow a gesture as abstract as momentary pointing.”
“This means that they closely observe the human, whom they are meeting for the first time, and they use their understanding of humans to make a decision,” Bhadra adds. “This shows their intelligence and adaptability.”
Because some dogs seemed anxious and were wary of approaching the researchers, it’s not clear how a dog’s personality—and past experiences—might affect its ability to interpret human signals. But this ability does not appear to be entirely dependent on training, the study authors say, which in turn should inform efforts to manage stray dogs.
“They are quite capable of understanding our body language and we need to give them their space,” Bhadra says. “A little empathy and respect for another species can reduce a lot of conflict.”
Mother Nature News had a second picture in their broadly-similar article. Indeed, I’m going to republish this article as well. For although they are of the same story they offer a slightly different account.
A new study shows these feral canines are paying close attention.
By Starre Vartan January 21, 2020
Dogs were likely the first animals that human beings domesticated — scientific guesses vary as to whether that was 10,000 years ago in Europe or 30,000 years ago in Asia (or, as one theory goes, humans tamed grey wolves two separate times). Regardless, they have been our companions for much of human history, and all of modern history. We have evolved together.
And that longstanding connection shows up in feral dogs.
Behavioral biologist Dr. Anindita Bhadra of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Kolkata, India, revealed this by studying stray dogs in several Indian cities. In the experiment, Bhadra and her colleagues would find a solo stray dog and put two covered bowls on the ground nearby. They they’d simply point to one of the bowls; some did this just once, others did it a few times.
The researchers, who published their work in Frontiers in Psychology, recorded the dogs’ reactions. Half the dogs seemed nervous, and didn’t look at or come close to either bowl. But the other half — noted as less anxious dogs by the researchers — approached the bowls. Of those friendlier dogs, about 80% went to the bowl the researcher pointed at. As long as the dogs weren’t too scared of the people, they were easily able to interpret what the pointing meant.
“We thought it was quite amazing that the dogs could follow a gesture as abstract as momentary pointing,” Bhadra said in a news release. “This means that they closely observe the human, whom they are meeting for the first time, and they use their understanding of humans to make a decision. This shows their intelligence and adaptability.”
In another study, three out of 13 untrained 8-week-old wolf puppies spontaneously retrieved a ball for a person who threw it, as MNN’s Mary Jo DiLonardo explains. It was a small study, and a low percentage of retrieving puppies, but it was an unexpected result as these weren’t domesticated dogs. “It was so unexpected, and I immediately knew that this meant that if variation in human-directed play behavior exists in wolves, this behavior could have been a potential target for early selective pressures exerted during dog domestication,” Christina Hansen Wheat, a biologist at Stockholm University, said.
Her observations show that playing with people may be a very old trait for wolves, that could reflect how our human ancestors first got to know them. This playful behavior may have sparked humans’ interest in domestication. If a dog could fetch a stick or other thrown object, they could be quite useful to hunting humans.
Of course, their adorable, big puppy-dog eyes and floppy ears (both traits that have become accentuated over time as dogs evolved) are among the reason we are still drawn to dogs today. (It also helps that they’re great listeners.)
But long before that happened, dogs served an important purpose — assisting people in locating and retrieving prey, and serving as eyes and ears for an intruder. Simple tasks like showing they can follow directions or fetch an object may have moved prehistoric dogs from outside the fire circle to within it, which is why understanding these behaviors are so important.
If we go back into the mists of time then prehistoric wolves (or dogs) learnt to bond with early humans because it served both their interests to so do. Humans became much more adept at hunting and wolves obviously became the benefactors of food!
Now dogs are so well bonded to human gestures that even non-domesticated dogs understand the signals that we humans put out. I say ‘non-domesticated’ but in a real sense all dogs are domesticated. It would be more accurate to say that these are dogs who do not have a home with humans.
The oldest human-animal relationship by far!
Slowly getting back to normal!
And posts like this help.
This we know: Top carnivores profoundly influence local ecosystems.
By STARRE VARTAN October 26, 2018.
The American people’s relationship with top predators — especially wolves — is complex and ever-evolving. About three decades ago, it was mostly just animal-rights groups and their supporters who fought for the wolves’ right to exist; they were often considered a nuisance. But now there’s plenty of scientific evidence proving what’s good for wolves is good for their prey, the plants those prey eat, and indeed, positively affects the entire ecosystem. That’s ultimately good for humans too — unless you’re competing with the wolves, like a rancher who grazes animals or a hunter who wants to shoot the same deer or moose that wolves need to eat. But at this point, even some ranchers and hunters have come over to the pro-predator side.
Much of that change in the perception of predators is down to studies that have proven how precisely cougars, wolves, bears, tigers, lions, bald eagles, alligators and other apex predators affect the land around them. None have been studied longer than the wolves and moose in Isle Royale National Park, a Guam-sized island in Lake Superior. For almost 60 years, the populations of these two groups have been tracked — as well as their effects on the plants and other animal communities on the island. (You can read the reports here, including the recent 59th annual report.)
As the video above explains, there used to be as many as 50 wolves on Isle Royale; however, that number has dwindled, mostly due to inbreeding that caused a debilitating spinal condition to proliferate among the too-closely-related wolves. Just 10 years ago, there were still around 30 wolves but by 2015, there were only three wolves left. Now, there are just two, a closely related male-female pair that probably won’t breed. (The female of the pair has aggressively fought back when the male attempted to breed with her.)
Already, the moose population on the island has boomed, “undoubtably because of lack of predation,” John Vucetich, a wildlife ecologist from Michigan Technological University told Science magazine, adding that the two remaining wolves are now “… swimming in moose.” Despite the wolves’ regular predation on moose, there’s been a 20 percent increase in moose in just one year, which scientists estimate is about five to 10 times higher than on mainland areas. Beaver populations have also risen sharply. There’s just not enough wolves to keep either population in check.
So what’s so bad about so many moose? Well, as most ungulates do, moose spend their days browsing on vegetation, so the more moose, the more food they need — and the plants on the island can only take so much nibbling. An aquatic plant, which was found in abundance just six years ago, is now only found in places where moose are not. Long-term, this means the island will soon run out of food to keep the ever-larger moose population alive, and many will starve once food becomes scarce. Previously, the wolves have kept moose populations low enough so they didn’t overeat the vegetation, keeping the system in balance.
A plan to rebalance the ecosystem
This is why some people think the best solution is to bring a fresh influx of wolves to Isle Royale National Park. The plan is to release 25-30 wolves over the next three to five years. So far, park officials have trapped four wolves on the mainland beginning in late September and released them on the island. Three of the wolves are female — with the hope they will successfully breed.
This new blood would potentially rebalance the predator-prey relationship and the idea is that the rest of the ecosystem would follow. Introducing so many wolves over several years is hardly natural either, others argue, saying that humans should just be hands off and let nature take its course. The original 50 wolves had found their way to the island on their own, having moved in from Canada; perhaps they could do so again if given the chance.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated since it was originally published in April 2017.
This is the real news!
Changing the world – one wolf at a time.
Holly M. Gill, Thursday, September 06, 2018
A male and a female wolf have been photographed with their two pups on the northern part of the reservation.
For at least the past four years, a large male wolf has been observed roaming parts of the Warm Springs Reservation. Now, the wolf, his mate and two pups have also been seen on trail cameras.
On Aug. 27, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Branch of Natural Resources confirmed that the single male first observed in 2014, and his mate, first seen in 2016, have produced two pups.
“In early September 2014, biologists suspected that a large male wolf of unknown origin, more than likely from Northeast Oregon, had a mate on the Warm Springs Reservation and Mount Hood National Forest, when remote cameras captured several images of two or more wolves in the area,” said wildlife biologist Austin Smith Jr., of the tribes’ Natural Resources Branch.
Just a few days ago, on May 1st to be precise, I published the post Dogs and Humans.
Colin Reynolds, he of the blog Wibble, left the following comment:
Good to see you back, glad to hear you had an enjoyable trip.
Those goslings are really cute 🙂
At risk of self-promotion: I was thinking of you when I wrote my latest blog post. Granted, wolves aren’t dogs, but they almost are… 🙂
I went across to Colin’s latest blog post and immediately wanted to share it with you all in this place.
It also seemed appropriate to ask Colin for his introduction. But here’s what he offered: “When Paul asked me if I would be willing to turn this post into a guest post for Learning from Dogs, I was more puzzled than anything else. The only words here that aren’t my own are those where I explain that all I did was transcribe George Monbiot’s words from the video.” I’m bound to say that the transcription was a grand job!
Anyway, here is Colin’s post.
by Colin Reynolds
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” — John Muir
When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent for nearly 70 years, the most remarkable ‘trophic cascade‘ occurred. In this short film, George Monbiot explains what a trophic cascade is, and how wolves do actually change rivers.
I found this so remarkable that I took the time to transcribe George’s words:
One of the most exciting scientific findings of the past half century has been the discovery of widespread ‘trophic cascades’. A trophic cascade is an ecological process which starts at the top of the food chain and tumbles all the way down to the bottom, and the classic example is what happened in the Yellowstone National Park in the United States when wolves were reintroduced in 1995. Now, we all know that wolves kill various species of animals, but perhaps we’re slightly less aware that they give life to many others.
Before the wolves turned up, they’d been absent for seventy years, but the numbers of deer — because there’d been nothing to hunt them — had built up and built up in the Yellowstone Park and despite the efforts by humans to control them, they’d reduced much of the vegetation there to almost nothing; they’d just grazed it away. But as soon as the wolves arrived, even though they were few in number, they started to have the most remarkable effects.
First, of course, they killed some of the deer. But that wasn’t the major thing: much more significantly, they radically changed the behaviour of the deer. The deer started avoiding certain parts of the park: the places where they could be trapped most easily, particularly the valleys and the gorges — and immediately, those places started to regenerate. In some areas, the height of the trees quintupled in just six years; bare valley sides quickly became forests of aspen, and willow, and cottonwood.
And as soon as that happened, the birds started moving in. The number of songbirds and migratory birds started to increase greatly. The number of beavers started to increase because beavers liked to eat the trees; and beavers, like wolves, are ecosystem engineers, they create niches for other species. And the dams they built in the rivers provided habitats for otters and musk-rats and ducks and fish and reptiles and amphibians.
The wolves killed coyotes, and as a result of that, the number of rabbits and mice began to rise, which meant more hawks, more weasels, more foxes, more badgers. Ravens and bald eagles came down to feed on the carrion that the wolves had left. Bears fed on it too, and their population began to rise as well, partly also because there were more berries growing on the regenerating shrubs. And the bears reinforced the impact of the wolves by killing some of the calves of the deer.
But here’s where it gets really interesting: the wolves changed the behaviour of the rivers. They began to meander less, there was less erosion, the channels narrowed, more pools formed, more riffle sections, all of which was great for wildlife habitats. The rivers changed in response to the wolves. And the reason was that the regenerating forests stabilised the banks so that they collapsed less often, so that the rivers became more fixed in their course. Similarly, by driving the deer out of some places and the vegetation recovering on the valley sides there was less soil erosion, because the vegetation stabilised that as well.
So the wolves, small in number, transformed not just the ecosystem of the Yellowstone National Park, this huge area of land, but also its physical geography.
Note from the video’s publisher (Sustainable Human): “There are ‘elk’ pictured in this video when the narrator is referring to ‘deer.’ This is because the narrator is British and the British word for ‘elk’ is ‘red deer’, or ‘deer’ for short. The scientific report this is based on refers to elk so we wanted to be accurate with the truth of the story.”
As that quote from John Muir infers, we are all connected. No better illustrated by a very sad piece of research news that will be the topic for tomorrow’s post.