Explore how wolves and fire keep ecosystems healthy in one of the wildest places in North America.
Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada is one of the few places where you can get a sense of North America as it was before European settlers arrived. Only five percent of Canada’s native grasslands remain, and they are right here, filled with iconic native animals like wolves, grizzly bears, bighorn sheep, and eagles.
Hike off-trail through rugged parts of the park that tourists never see, past grizzly bears and herds of elk, to help researchers untangle the complex interactions between wolves, elk, and fire. Park managers set controlled fires to keep invasive aspen trees from taking over the native grasslands. Elk eat the aspen shoots that grow after the burns, clearing space for grass to grow. But wolves may be scaring the elk away from their grazing grounds.
To help keep this amazing place intact, park managers need to understand exactly how this food-chain reaction works. Help them by measuring how much vegetation elk are eating and how the controlled fires have shaped the plant populations. Spend one day on the trail of wolves, following their tracks in areas of high wolf activity, such as their meeting sites and travel corridors.