No trace remains of the wolves whose howls ricocheted for millennia down the lush valleys of the Olympic Peninsula.
Settlers and trappers killed them all in little more than three decades.
But the loss of the stealthy predators in the early 1900s left a hole in the landscape that scientists say they are just beginning to grasp. The ripples extend throughout what is now Olympic National Park, leading to a boom in elk populations, overbrowsing of shrubs and trees, and erosion so severe it has altered the very nature of the rivers, says a team of Oregon State University biologists. The result, they argue, is an environment that is less rich, less resilient, and — perhaps — in peril.
"We think this ecosystem is unraveling in the absence of wolves," said OSU ecologist William Ripple.
keyboard shortcuts: V vote up article J next comment K previous comment