Absaroka-Beartooth Rewilding: Where the Carnivores Roam?

Cristina Eisenberg

Wolf No. 10 - NPS

Excerpt: When wolves (Canis lupus) were reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park in the winter of 1995, virtually the first thing they did upon leaving their acclimation pens was vector due north and straight up into the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area. At 8,000 feet above sea level and higher, this place of deep snow and jagged mountains was mostly well above the winter range of their usual prey, except for moose (Alces alces). It represented terra incognita for wolves that had been captured in the lush elk (Cervus elavus) valleys near Banff National Park, Alberta and flown down to Montana. These wolves struggled to find food, but persisted, with sometimes tragic outcomes. But I’m getting a little ahead of my story.

Of the original 31 wolves reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park and their progeny, which today number several thousand, since 1995 few have settled in this vast wilderness. However, some have met death here at the hands of trophy hunters. For other carnivore species—grizzly bears (Ursus arctos), wolverines (Gulo gulo), lynx (Lynx canadensis), and cougars (Puma concolor)—the Absaroka-Beartooth’s nearly one million open, wild acres provide far more suitable habitat than for wolves. This is the story of the rewilding of this wilderness and of these carnivores’ fates here.

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Cristina Eisenberg

Author Cristina Eisenberg is the Chief Scientist at Earthwatch Institute, where she directs a global ecological research program. She is an Indigenous and Latina scientist who holds doctorates in wildlife and forestry. Her research focuses on rewilding and ecological restoration: how restoring natural processes and relationships between disturbance (fire), apex predators (wolves), and their prey creates communities more resilient to climate change. She is the principal investigator on research projects in SW Alberta on wolves, fire, and bison, and in Scotland on rewilding the Highlands with wolves. She has authored two books, The Wolf’s Tooth: Keystone Predators, Trophic Cascades, and Biodiversity, and The Carnivore Way: Coexisting with and Conserving America’s Predators. She is faculty at Oregon State University and Montana Technological University, and a Smithsonian Research Associate. She lives in Montana in a remote log cabin in the Swan Valley, and in Concord, Massachusetts, near Walden Pond. http://cristinaeisenberg.com/