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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

The September issue of the publication, ROYAL SOCIETY B. has a peer reviewd study of how Mange, Distemper and Parovirus have impacted the Wolves of Yellowstone............As many of us know, the Wolves introduced to the Park in 1995 initially expanded their numbers rapidly up until 2009 when the largest Pack in the Park(The Druid's) contracted Mange and thereafter died out---------Penn State Ecologist Peter Hudson who co-authored the study points out that “Healthy ecosystems are full of parasites".............. "The reintroduced wolves had no natural immunity to these diseases"............. Hudson thinks the disease organisms and the wolves will eventually strike a balance.............

Nature's way of providing checks and balances on Wolves, Coyotes and Foxes

by: Faye Flam;

This is my penultimate column for the Philadelphia Inquirer. It will run in print on Monday. The final one runs the following Monday: A century ago, Americans so vehemently hated the wolves of their Western states that they attacked them with germ warfare. Veterinarians deliberately infected coyotes with a disease called mange, hoping it would spread to the wolves, which it did, causing many of them to lose so much fur that they froze to death in the harsh winters. Now, according to a recent study by Penn State researchers, the mange survived in other animals long after the wolves were gone.

And it has resurfaced in wolf packs reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the 1990s. Those wolves are also losing cubs to canine distemper and a disease called parvovirus. These diseases struck the wolves much faster than scientists expected, said Penn State ecologist Peter Hudson, who is a coauthor on the study, published in the September issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. But he still expects the wolves to pull through in the long run.

“Healthy ecosystems are full of parasites,” he said. The reintroduced wolves had no natural immunity to these diseases, but eventually he thinks the disease organisms and the wolves will strike a balance.
By tracking the way these outbreaks are spreading among the reintroduced wolves, he and his colleagues hope to learn lessons they can apply to understanding the dynamics of other emerging diseases.

“People used to think parasites and pathogens were of no importance to ecology,” he said. Now, scientists are realizing the pathogens are part of the environment and can cause animal populations to go through big oscillations.

One thriving wolf pack, called the Druids, was hit with mange in 2009 and died out the next year, said Penn State ecologist Emily Almberg, who was lead author on the paper. But overall, the impact of the wolves continues to be dramatic. Since their reintroduction, she said, exploding populations of elk have declined, allowing some plants to rebound, along with animal species that depended on them.

No one knows exactly how many wolves lived in the region that became Yellowstone National Park before the late 1800s, when humans wiped them out. The wolves were exterminated in a massive, government-led campaign that employed a combination of shooting, germ warfare, and poison.
By the 1940s, wildlife conservation pioneer Aldo Leopold first suggested that wolves played a role in the ecology and should be reintroduced, said Daniel Stahler, a biologist with the Yellowstone Wolf Project and the Yellowstone Center for Resources.

There was tremendous resistance from ranchers, who feared wolves would leave the park and kill their cattle. Meanwhile, elk populations were exploding.Finally, in 1995 and 1996, 41 wolves were brought down from Canada and released into the park, said Stahler. By 2003, they reached a peak of 170. Now, they are down to 100, and Stahler agrees with the Penn State researchers that the numbers are likely to fluctuate but not collapse.

The now extinct Druid Pack

The elk population has dropped from 20,000 in the mid-1990s to 8,000 today, he said. Scientists don’t know for sure whether the drop is entirely caused by wolf predation or also by other factors such as drought, which affects the plants the elk depend upon for food.

The decline in wolves may also reflect a rebalancing of the ecosystem. Wolves are territorial; their leading cause of death is being killed by another wolf in territorial disputes.

While the wolves have eaten enough elk to reduce their numbers, they have also changed the elks’ behavior, said Penn State’s Almberg. The wolves keep the elk on the move, “so they can’t keep hammering at one willow or aspen stand” and destroying it. Meanwhile, ecologists have seen a cascade effect on the landscape, with more willow and aspen surviving, which in turn benefits warblers, beavers, and other animals that depend on those trees.

Scavengers such as ravens and grizzly bears also benefit — from the carcasses left by wolf kills.
The researchers saw the first mange cases in 2002, said Almberg, and the first outbreaks of canine distemper in 2005. Distemper, she said, is a highly contagious viral disease that affects the nervous system and kills some adults and most wolf pups.

Wolf effected by Mange(note fur missing mid flank)

Mange is a skin disease caused by mites, and while it’s not fatal by itself, infected wolves can bite and scratch themselves so much that they die from secondary infections. Or they can lose so much fur that they freeze to death. The outbreak, she said, went through most of the park by 2007.

In the future, she and Hudson are calling on locals and tourists to become citizen scientists send them pictures they take of the wolves. “Visitor photographs are really helpful. So many people are out there every day taking photos,” she said. “There’s no way our staff could re-create that field effort.”

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