One Species

By Ashlynn, age 16, and her Mother

One species can alter an entire ecosystem. A species that has a huge impact on its surroundings is the wolf. Not only do they help other animals, but they also can refine the land in which they thrive. It all starts with their hunt. When wolves kill, they are often engaging in a very dangerous activity, taking down animals that weigh many times more than they do. They target only one animal. It is usually small, weak, or unhealthy, unlike hunters who choose biggest and strongest. If they don’t get the kill, the hunt stops and they do not pursue any other animals in the herd. If they do get the kill, it makes the herd stronger and healthier. This is because the weak have died off and the healthy animals can flourish. After feeding on their prey, if they leave part of a kill behind they plan to come back for future feedings. In some instances, other animals feed on their kills so they prosper as well.

Furthermore, when fourteen wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone in 1995 they dramatically altered the land. During their absence, the deer population grew despite efforts by humans to control the population. The deer reduced the vegetation to almost nothing. When the wolves came back, deer avoided certain areas and life flourished. Vegetation recovered, and trees quintupled in six years. This made immense amounts and varieties of animals come to Yellowstone. Additionally, wolves also changed the rivers. There was less erosion, channels narrowed, and pools formed, which are all great for habitats. The wolves, small in number, not only changed the ecosystem but also its physical geography.

One species can change the whole environment. As humans, we need to appreciate and respect all parts of nature. We need to protect the animals with dwindling populations, like the wolf. We have no idea how important each species’ role is in balancing their ecosystem. Let’s treasure all the beautiful things wildlife has to offer before it’s too late and what’s left behind is emptiness.

[First Place Essay, Sense of Wonder/Sense of the Wild]