How Wolves Change Rivers

Wouldn’t it be nice to get rid of wolves? With those nasty predators gone, nature would be perfect — the forests and grasslands would be serene homelands. Gentle herbivores wouldn’t have to worry about being eaten.

So in many areas, the wolf was hunted down almost to extinction. But over time, subtle, unhealthy changes took place in the wilderness no one could understand. The above video tells the story of what happened when wolves were reintroduced into the northern Rocky Mountains. Turns out the big, bad wolf is an essential part of the greater ecosystem. By killing off diseased elk, wolves forced the overall elk population to adapt, making the elk faster, stronger, and healthier. And without the elk fearlessly eating their way through valleys and gorges, plants that help maintain riverbank integrity flourished once again. This in turn enabled greater biodiversity as other animals returned.

What appears frightening and brutal can be the source of beauty and wonder. That’s the mystery nature continues to teach us. Growing up on a farm, I read Jack London and Robert E. Howard, whose severe yet captivating visions of nature made perfect sense to me. In college, I discovered Robert Ardrey, Konrad Lorenz, and E. O. Wilson, who popularized the science that examined the role aggression plays in shaping animal behavior and ensuring the survival of the strong and beautiful. Without the yin and the yang, there is no viable whole. Each needs the other.

“Siberian Khatru,” a classic Yes song by Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman, and Steve Howe, could be the wolf’s theme song:

Sing, bird of prey;
Beauty begins at the foot of you. Do you believe the manner?

29 thoughts on “How Wolves Change Rivers”

    1. Robert,

      Charlotte, NC, where I now live, definitely had an over-abundance of deer. I feel sorry for them, but as you say, they do carry diseases. I’ve seen more deer living here in the city than I ever saw growing up in the country PLUS all the times I went deer hunting in my 20s.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Do you at least have cougars out there? Here in California we have mountain lions and their main source of food is deer. Recently a wolf family was spotted in Northern CA, the first one in CA in almost a century.

        Liked by 2 people

  1. The same could be said about sharks. Very misunderstood. BTW, I was a big YES fan for many years. Saw them in concert in 1991 on the “Union” tour. Again in 2002, and saw Jon Anderson on his solo tour in 2004. Great stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Robert Kirkendall,

    We have rattlers, copperheads, bears, gators, and red wolves. Reports of panthers are rare. And don’t forget that bucks can kill, especially in rutting season.


  3. I adore wolves and have since I was little. I read Jack London a lot in middle school and yet that made me love wolves even more rather than see them more negatively; their raw power and the primitivism which London portrayed resonated with me in a way that most people probably wouldn’t expect from a reserved bookworm like me. Unfortunately, not everyone where I grew up and still live think that way. My hometown is in Northern California–for reference, think about Shasta, Tehama, Trinity, those sorts of counties–and when OR-7 came through here a few years back there was more than just one letter to the editor of our local newspaper expressing a deep hatred for the creature and a desire–more like threat–to shoot it. I can’t pretend to understand why just one wolf would stir such negative uproar, especially considering it was only one, but I suppose it speaks to our fear of anything which could possibly be as powerful or more powerful than we are. Considering how long it had been since there had been a wolf in the area, it was probably a fear of the unknown as well. People need to understand the importance of these predators in the natural cycle, although people up here are so stubborn and stuck in their ways that I don’t hold too much hope until a major mental shift occurs. Still, thank you for the wonderful video and your post.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, it is primarily about the black wolf that hung out on the outskirts of Juneau for years but it also has other information about wolfs, wildlife and conservation.


  4. Great video, for sure human population growth mean encroaching on natural habitats where wolves and bears are now coming in to contact with human communities. We need to do more to protect natural areas and their animal populations from humans. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A healthy ecosystem relies on predators, to balance itself! Ignore this, and new human societies will end up living in underground bunkers and eat only laboratory made “food”! Not for me, thanks! Keep in touch, following your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

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