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Trophic Avalanche:  Our Final Ride?

JOHN R HALL—In the early days of Yellowstone National Park, wolves and other mammals of prey lacked any kind of government protection from hunters.  Wolves kill livestock and compete with hunters for game animals, so they have been traditionally vilified, victimized, and eliminated.  Seven decades without one of the most voracious predators in the ecosystem resulted in explosions of antelope, deer and elk populations, overgrazing of grasslands and elimination of vast stands of aspens, willows, and cottonwoods.  This process cascaded down through the food chain, resulting in drastic reductions in species of birds and mammals of all descriptions.  Receding grasslands and forests resulted in meandering rivers and a transformation of the landscape.

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