“Grey Wolves” in Yellowstone not native species?

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“Grey Wolves” in Yellowstone not native species?

Post by GageRage » Mon Jan 06, 2020 5:23 pm

So this has been a subject that’s stirred around in my head for a while and I’ve debated it with friends before. I’ve read articles regarding Yellowstone’s “grey wolves” (honestly I don’t really like to call them straight up “grey wolves”) because grey wolf could mean any subspecies of Canis Lupus.) I’ve read that Yellowstone’s current “native” wolves were introduced were actually Mackenzie Valley wolves Canis lupus occidentalis) and were not a native wolf species that roamed that area. I know a vast majority of subspecies are non existent due to the expansion of human settlements and over hunting but, is there pros to introducing a non native subspecies in an area they wouldn’t normally occupy? Would there be a concern for Mackenzie Valley wolves becoming invasive?

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Re: “Grey Wolves” in Yellowstone not native species?

Post by DaniBeez » Tue Jan 07, 2020 5:22 pm

Hey GageRage,

GageRage wrote:is there pros to introducing a non native subspecies in an area they wouldn’t normally occupy?
In general, potentially. Sometimes it is even necessary, if the source population no longer exists. In the example of Yellowstone and grey wolf reintroduction, the subspecies and/or source population selected for reintroduction was not without debate. This paragraph outlines some of the considerations, including: body size, typical prey species, genetic diversity of the source population, and habitat preferences. Not a straightforward decision in this instance! But Yellowstone's biodiversity and tourism is influenced positively by wolf presence. However, livestock and big game hunting businesses were negatively affected by reintroduction.

For fun, an example of a net-negative species introduction that I recently explored is goldfish (originally from China) to North American lake systems like the Great Lakes, which I live near. Carp species like the goldfish do too well around here, decimating the habitat they share with local species. They eat everything in their path, grow huge relative to other species, and increase water turbidity, making the water conditions unfavourable for native fishes. In a couple generations, they lose their bright pet colors and revert to more olive-toned colors. Don't flush your fish :frog: !


GageRange wrote:Would there be a concern for Mackenzie Valley wolves becoming invasive?
In my limited opinion, no. Yellowstone does not presently or historically have another species competing with the grey wolf (no matter the subspecies) it for its ecological role. Coyotes would be the closest species I can think of, and they have different prey preferences than wolves, among other differences that allow them to coexist without out-competing each other to extirpation (local extinction).

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Re: “Grey Wolves” in Yellowstone not native species?

Post by GageRage » Tue Jan 07, 2020 7:39 pm

I think Yellowstone did benefit from it in a sense. I know there was the whole story about how there was a large number of elk and due to the large population needing to consume larger amounts of vegetation , it left saplings vulnerable which lead to a decrease of trees. The reintroduction of wolves did change some environmental factors.

I’ve been fascinated by recovery efforts, introductions of species, and invasive species for a while now and anything I can learn about is always fascinating to me.

A poor example of species introduction that I was recently told about by a friend who went to study the wolves there, was the introduction of wolves Isle Royale. He told me Had studied wolves that were introduced there to combat growing moose numbers and also for eco tourism. Many of the wolves starved, perished, or had began to interbreed within the same family.

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Re: “Grey Wolves” in Yellowstone not native species?

Post by Isela » Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:36 pm

As of currently, there are five known subspecies of gray wolf in North America:
  • Arctic gray wolf (Canis lupus arctos)
  • Great Plains gray wolf (Canis lupus nubilus)
  • Northwestern Rocky Mountain gray wolf (Canis lupus occidentalis)
  • Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi)
  • Eastern timber wolf, or Algonquin wolf (Canis lycaon)


The wolves residing in Yellowstone are of the same subspecies as those from the Mackenzie Valley area, the Northwestern rocky mountain gray wolf. The Northwestern rocky mountain gray wolf subspecies spans from Alaska, North/Northwestern Canadian territories, and Northwest USA. There are not many physical features differing between the wolf populations in each area, as the climate/biome is relatively the same.

https://wolf.org/wolf-info/basic-wolf-i ... of-wolves/

There was not enough time between the eradication of wolves from Yellowstone and the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone for them to be classified as an invasive species. That would take hundreds of years for each part of the ecosystem to evolve ahead of the organism that was removed.

I suggest watching this video of Doug Smith, leader of the Yellowstone Wolf Project, where he answers questions concerning the reintroduction of wolves to the park:




At the 7:00 minute mark he addresses the question of if the wrong wolf was reintroduced. He brings up the good case that wolves are very capable of getting around, thus reducing their chances of isolation from different populations. The debate of subspecies continues, but one thing remains: they all fall under Canis lupus, and can very readily breed with each other, be it an arctic gray wolf with a Mexican gray wolf, they can still produce healthy offspring, thus rendering the "wrong" wolf argument moot.

I hope this makes sense. I've been under the weather lately and may not be explaining things effectively, so let me know if you would like me to expand/explain things more thoroughly.

GageRage wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 7:39 pm
A poor example of species introduction that I was recently told about by a friend who went to study the wolves there, was the introduction of wolves Isle Royale. He told me Had studied wolves that were introduced there to combat growing moose numbers and also for eco tourism. Many of the wolves starved, perished, or had began to interbreed within the same family.
Yes, this indeed happened, and a new set of wolves were introduced on the island in recent years. We had different discussions over the Isle Royale wolf introduction in the Wolf Conservation forum if you would like to read over those:
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Re: “Grey Wolves” in Yellowstone not native species?

Post by GoldenBeauty » Mon Feb 03, 2020 8:41 am

Wolves are wolves. They're not a species, but a subspecies (practically the same thing). It doesn't really make a difference, in my opinion. Wolf hunting strategies and behaviors vary little especially if the subspecies environment is exactly the same or almost the same as the original Yellowstone subspecies.
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