A pack of wolves remind a male coyote who the top predator is.
For as long as anyone can remember, wolves have been the dominant predator over the coyote. When the gray wolf was reintroduced to Yellowstone, coyote and wolf ranges overlapped and a considerable decline in the coyote population was immediately detected.
Wolf & Coyote ComparrisonOutrunning a wolf may prove too difficult for a coyote in flat conditions, but they can use their lighter weight as an advantage on hilly or steep terrain.
When it comes to wolves and coyotes, it’s really dealing with the lesser of two evils, and in that case we’d say coyotes are far less of a threat to us as humans and our livestock/property than wolves. After watching this video, you may feel the same.
Watch in awe as this pack of wolves descends upon a hungry male coyote who attempted to feast on their recent kill. If you’ve ever doubted what a pack of wolves can do (and these aren’t even hungry), you’re about to have your mind changed.
Vicious, but that is the way of nature.
The pregnant female coyote’s ability to survive diminished quickly as her mate was taken from her, and as unfortunate as that scenario may seem, wolves have had a positive impact on Yellowstone’s re-flourishing.
In 1995 and 1996, the local coyote population went through a dramatic restructuring. Prior to the wolves’ return, Yellowstone National Park had one of the most stable coyote populations in America. Only two years after the wolf reintroductions, the population of coyotes had been reduced 50%. According to Wikipedia,
Yellowstone coyotes have had to shift their territories as a result, moving from open meadows to steep terrain. Carcasses in the open no longer attract coyotes; when a coyote is chased on flat terrain, it is often killed. They feel more secure on steep terrain, where they will often lead a pursuing wolf downhill. As the wolf comes after it, the coyote will turn around and run uphill. Wolves, being heavier, cannot stop and the coyote gains a large lead. Though physical confrontations between the two species are usually dominated by the larger wolves, coyotes have been known to attack wolves if they outnumber them. Both species will kill each other’s pups, given the opportunity.
Considering how controversial wolves are within the hunting community, it should be noted that “in [urban or inhabited] areas where wolves have been exterminated, coyotes usually flourish. For example, as New England became increasingly settled and the resident wolves were eliminated, the coyote population increased, filling the empty ecological niche.” Wolves play an important role in keeping the ecosystem balanced, though Wikipedia did go on to note that “…coyotes appear better able than wolves to live among people.”
In 1995, Yellowstone was at a point in which deer and elk populations were largely increasing. These animals did a number on vegetation and plant life, essentially impacting the food supplies for many other organisms. After wolves were reintroduced, numbers became manageable once again and the flora and fauna near the rivers began to regrow and return to their natural height. SustainableMan.org shared a great video, narrated by George Monbiot, which explains the phenomenon known as a “trophic cascade.” It’s essentially an ecological process that starts at the top of the food chain and falls down to the bottom.
Hunting continues to be a powerful fail safe against overpopulation, but sometimes we need nature there right along with us to get the job done.