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snowy forest wolf pack


Reintroduction of native predators into National Parks

Large apex predators are declining across the globe with the direct and indirect ecological effects to be catastrophic. Many techniques have been put in place to reverse this and restore native flora and fauna in National Parks. With success of the grey wolf reintroduction into to Yellowstone National Park, could Scotland and Britain, look to wolves to overturn its ecosystems in crisis?

Yellowstone National Park

In the 1920s wolves were eradicated from Yellowstone National Park, meaning the park was wolf-free for almost a century. Suffering from fires in 1988, these devastated the area, where at the time there was only one beaver colony. As of 1995, scientists introduced wolves back into the park to curb the rising elk population where in the past, snowfall every winter was relied heavily upon to do this job. This benefitted scavengers such as eagles, grizzly bears and coyotes.

This gave scientists the opportunity to study the result of returning a top predator into an ecosystem. The result of the reintroduction was overwhelmingly positive, changing the parks rivers and landscapes, predominantly moving elk away from water sources. This led to the recolonisation of beavers, songbirds and riverine vegetation to Yellowstone’s waterways. Beavers discovered a new food source, building new dams and ponds, resulting in a flourishing beaver population of now nine colonies. The result of this reintroduction left many scientists dumbfounded by the vast web of life effected by wolves.

United Kingdom

With Yellowstone’s success of the reintroduction of wolves, other national parks may look to emulate this. Reintroduction of wolves into the Scottish Highlands was first proposed in the late 1960s, however it only started to gain wide publicity following the success in the USA. With the effective reintroduction of the wild boar and the Eurasian beaver, Britain looked to the grey wolf to fulfil its retrieval of some of its larger native wild animals. Records indicate the last wolf was killed in 1680 in Perthshire but other sources suggest wolves roamed Scotland until the 18th century. Despite demonisation of wolves, they are in fact shy and retiring animals. Scientists at the Universities of Sussex and Oxford believe they could reduce red deer numbers, protect farmers crops, and increase tourism across Europe. There is however still concerns around wolf-human interactions.

Researchers suggest a fenced area, to restrict encounters between wolves, farmers and residents, as this would be optimal for the wolves to populate in high densities and effectively regulate red deer, a real-life Jurassic Park. Currently, red deer are responsible for the prevention of tree regeneration, with greater than 30% of its woodland sub-standard due to their herbivory. Ecological restoration by rewilding is currently receiving much wider recognition within the conservation community and restoring native flora and fauna, such as grey wolves, to an ecosystem could be a key step toward rewilding our British landscapes.