Why top predators matter

An in-depth look at new research

Top predators such as wolves, lions, and jaguars play very important roles in the ecology. From control of mesopredators like coyotes and hyenas to control of ungulate populations and how they use the land.

Why top predators matter: an in-depth look at new research
Jeremy Hance



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  1. gline Avatar

    “In some cases where dingoes are being killed, dingoes actually appear to be killing more livestock than when they were left alone. This is probably happening because few old dingoes are left, which in normal circumstances train young dogs how to hunt species such as kangaroos. So in effect what you’re left with is a bunch of rowdy, uninformed teenagers who go for the easiest target, which are often things like calves.”

    Whether you agree with this or not, it is just common sense.

  2. Jon Way Avatar

    Very interesting (and long) article. It clearly shows the importance of top predators as most on this blog know already. I would disagree with one thing, however. In Yellowstone, coyotes are certainly mesocarnivores, where elk and bison are the main ungulates. However, in most of North America (esp. where deer are main prey) I would not call coyotes mesocarnivores. A number of studies in areas where wolves don’t live shows coyotes help control mesocarnivores (fox, cats) which greatly helps prey species incl. songbirds (1 study) and kangaroo rats (another study). I think overall coyotes would be top predator (esp in the east where they are coywolves) rather than mesocarnivore, esp. in today’s world – save the national parks and other areas where wolves live which is only 5% of the country. In best case scenarios it is doubtful that wolves will ever live in more than 25% of the country making animals like coyotes (and mt. lions out west) the areas top predator. And foxes and smaller animals as more appropriately termed meso-predators.
    But interesting article nonetheless…

  3. nabeki Avatar

    Tracking science: Biologist’s findings show forest diversity, health influenced by wolves

  4. JB Avatar


    Would you mind providing the citation for the study that shows a relationship between coyotes, mesocarnivores, and songbirds? I would be very interested to take a look.

  5. Virginia Avatar

    I wish the anti-wolf crowd would read this well-researched and documented article. But, of course, they do not want to be confused by the facts.

  6. nabeki Avatar

    Wolves drive trophic cascade in Banff National Park

  7. Si'vet Avatar

    Virginia, I read and enjoyed the article. But it’s a study in a Park. The enviroment there is not the same as it is outside the park. Inside the parks the predator vs prey balance seems to work. Outside of the parks in the rest of world there are many other influences, I just don’t think it’s apples to apples.

  8. izabelam Avatar

    Of course Virginia. Look at this link:
    http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=9550987 (not sure how to post it).
    Utah got closer to being ID,MT or WY.

  9. izabelam Avatar

    Si’vet”Outside of the parks in the rest of world there are many other influences”
    Yes, like cry babies ranchers, hunters and ingnorant people who want to control and manage everything moving on 4 legs.

  10. Si'vet Avatar

    Iz, and shopping malls, farms including organic farms, subdivisions, industrial areas, and how many human beings per square mile? So you agree, a good read, but not apples to apples?

  11. Virginia Avatar

    Si’vet – you must have read a different article than I read. The article I read mentioned studies of the loss of top predators in diverse places such as Kenya, South America, Zion National Park, Yellowstone, Isle Royale National Park, Australia, Siberia, as well as the world’s oceans. I only mention the wolves based on the extensive studies we know about in Yellowstone. You must be aware of all of the effects of the loss of these other predators in other parts of the world, not just “the Park.” The wolf issue is obviously only one of the examples of the devastation of the loss of so many predators in ecosystems around the world.

  12. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    If ranchers kill 100 wolves only to then gain 400 coyotes who kill even more livestock, it seems like natural justice of a Darwinian sort.

    The stupid lose out.

  13. Si'vet Avatar

    Virginia, I thought you were refering to Nabeki’s link on Glacier via the Missoulian, was there another link?

  14. Si'vet Avatar

    Virginia, got it, the lead post. Will read.

  15. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    To all – has anyone worked with or have an opinion of Bob Fanning and or The Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd?

  16. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Talks with Bears,

    Bob Fanning comments here every once and a while, but my impression is the comments are pretty hostile and inaccurate.

  17. Salle Avatar

    I think of him and his “friends” as wannabe graduates from the Sarah Palin school of “thought”, you betcha.

  18. mikarooni Avatar

    I like to see Bob Fanning talking, posting, writing or whatever. He’s an environmental attorney’s dream opponent. If you poke at him a bit and get him going, he’ll just out and out spill the beans on everything his side is thinking and talking about behind closed doors. He’s wonderfully naive, overconfident, and, frankly, downright stupid. Talks with Bears, you’d like him; the two of you would have a lot in common.

  19. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    mikarooni – what exactly would Bob Fanning and I have in common, according to you?

  20. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I don’t see any commonality between TWB and Fanning.

  21. Jon Way Avatar

    Just getting back to this post. Here are 3 reference (below) of positive effects of coyotes. In order, benefiting songbirds, rodents, and then ducks:

    Crooks, K. R., and M. E. Soule. 1999. Mesopredator release and avifaunal extinctions in a fragmented system. Nature 400:563-566.

    Henke, S. E., and F. C. Bryant. 1999. Effects of coyote removal on the faunal community in western Texas. Journal of Wildlife Management 63:1066-1081.

    Marsha A. Sovada, Alan B. Sargeant and James W. Grier. 1 (Jan., 1995), Differential Effects of Coyotes and Red Foxes on Duck Nest Success. The Journal of Wildlife Management, Vol. 59, No. pp. 1-9

  22. JB Avatar

    Thanks, Jon!

  23. gline Avatar

    Thanks Jon for the links.

  24. Jon Way Avatar

    No problem guys. Maybe state and feds will one day realize the value of all creatures in any given system… coyotes and other predators included.


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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