Too many times, we’re tempted to adopt environmental practices only from the narrow viewpoint of benefiting our immediate needs. Wiping out wolves seemed such a perfect solution to those who sought to tame the wilderness that they went full-speed ahead with little or no thought to the ecological consequences, ridding the countryside (along with most of the country) of what they regarded as vicious killers. What they were doing, we continue to discover, was creating a Domino Effect that would reverberate well into the future and have a cascading effect up and down the chain of life. If one ever needed solid evidence that species are intimately linked and highly dependent on each other for their health and survival this story is it.
It may seem somewhat contradictory to suggest that the Snowshoe Hare’s worst enemy, the Lynx, could also be it’s best ally. But nearly every species has, and needs, its predators. Take one out of the equation, and populations become unbalanced. And, the Snowshoe Hare, lynx and coyote are just as tightly linked as wolf, beaver and elk.
Out west, having had their primary predator, the wolf, removed, elk became a more stationary animal. Without having to be constantly on the move, they overgrazed their habitat, wiping out stands of willow and aspen, denuding riverbanks, moving on only when they had used up their food source. This loss of aspen and willow deprived beaver of food and dam-building material, which led to beaver populations diminishing, a loss that undoubtedly had cascading effects on down the line, as the story here illustrates.
Today, decades later, we are seeing the rebounding of affected species once linked species have been restored. In other words, dominoes far down the line are falling up again.
The links in the story above make fascinating reading. They give great insight on how even loosely-connected species are linked and what happens when one is removed or restored. On the lighter side, the video below shows the life of leisure some elk herds enjoy where the natural laws of tooth and claw don’t apply.