Grasshopper Consumption by Grey Wolves and Implications for Ecosystems
December 3, 2019
The eradication and subsequent reintroduction of grey wolves (Canis lupus) in the western United States has provided unique insights into the role these predators play in regulating ecosystem functioning and dynamics. Although the importance of wolves in ecosystems has been recognized for nearly a century, recent work has reported ecological interactions that reach beyond their direct effects on ungulates and indirect effects on plants (Beschta and Ripple 2019). This point was unexpectedly demonstrated to us during a detour on our way to the 2017 Ecological Society of America conference, when we spent a few days backpacking in Idaho, USA. While walking along a ridgeline that overlooked the Hells Canyon Wilderness, we saw fresh tracks from a wolf. We continued down the trail with our heads down, following the tracks while dodging seemingly endless numbers of grasshoppers that jumped in and out of our path. Apparently, we were not the only ones that had taken notice of the abundant grasshoppers, as we soon stumbled upon evidence that wolves were taking advantage of this plentiful food source.
Author(s): Brandon T. Barton, Jovonn G. Hill, Carter L. Wolff, Thomas M. Newsome, William J. Ripple, Marcus A. Lashley