Friday, October 28, 2011

Wolves Could Be the Key to Saving the Canadian Lynx

Leopold, author of the Evolutionary-Ecologic land ethic, believed that all things are part of a complex web that work and interact with each other, even if this relationship may not be obvious. The article, “How wolves could save threatened lynx species,” by Colin Ricketts, emphasizes Leopold’s point that everything is indeed connected with each other.
Researchers from Oregon State University have studied the connection between the wolf and the Canadian lynx populations. Their argument is that as the wolf populations was destroyed, coyote populations have been allowed to flourish in the absence of their predators. As the coyote populations increase, extra pressure has been put on the snowshoe hares. Not only have snowshoe hare populations declined, but the lynx population has declined as well, due to the fact that the lynx is also a predator of snowshoe hares.
Before the wolf population was exterminated, they kept the coyote population in control not only through direct predation, but through indirect effects such as the “ecology of fear,” in which their fear of wolves altered their behavioral patterns, and the coyotes preyed on a wide variety of species. However, without the wolves, they are free to exploit their preferred diet of rabbits and snowshoe hares. In addition, coyotes have expanded their distribution.
As discussed in lecture, there are, in many cases, multiple causes for a decline in species number. For the lynx, it was placed on the threatened species list in 2000 with the following reasons for decline: loss of food, changes to its habitat, and effects of climate change. These may all work together to further accelerate the rate of decline if the wolf species are not able to keep the coyote populations in check. An example of a success story is that in Yellowstone National Park, wolf populations have returned, and the coyote numbers declined by 50%, indicating that reviving the wolf populations may be a good way to conserve the lynx species and prevent further decline.

Ricketts, Colin. “How wolves could save threatened lynx species.” Earth Times. 31 Aug 2011.

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