In a Nutshell
We have often given the ancestors of domestic dogs little credit, viewing them as savage killers. More enlightened views may see wolves as predators that cull the herds of sick or weak animals. However, wolves are actually master ecosystem engineers, and their activities are directly responsible for the protection of migratory songbirds. Wolves exert top down control on herbivore activity, and are therefore capable of preventing deforestation from decimating breeding bird populations.
The Whole Bushel
“Wolves are not our brothers; they are not our subordinates, either. They are another nation, caught up just like us in the complex web of time and life.” – Henry Beston
Wolves are often seen as vicious killers at worst, and predators with a simple relationship with other animals at best. Wolves have been considered to be a harmful force of nature, unleashing only destruction on other species. Some writers considered the grey canines to carry “the very persona of Satan” under their fur. Wolves were seen as bring only bad to a supposedly good and abundant natural order, competing with man and other animals for resources.
How foolish it seems now to consider a part of nature’s finely tuned machinery to be somehow out of place. A strong counterpunch to the view of the wolf as a harmful species presents itself in the discovery that wolves not only “cull the herd” of sick and weak animals, but hold the keys to maintaining the order of entire ecosystems.
Those powerful jaws do not unleash wanton destruction, but are instead pruning shears that belong to natures regulators that surprisingly, are responsible for maintaining the populations of our favorite migratory songbirds. In areas where wolves were brought back, such as the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, wolf returns saw the exertion of controls on elk populations, leading to substantial changes in riparian vegetation.
As a result, songbirds such as the canary-like Yellow Warbler returning from South America were able to recolonize vast areas that had been denuded and deforested in the absence of wolves, the master forest manager.