Just a couple of days ago I wrote a post about the free online wildlife simulation game, WolfQuest. In this game, you create a virtual wolf persona, and attempt to survive, join a pack, find a mate, create a den, and raise your young in the wilds of Yellowstone Park. It is a great way for students to learn about wolf ecology.
However, there was a great article in this weekend's News and Observer paper that talked about the re-admission of red wolves in Eastern North Carolina. This article is an example of a way to extend the learning from the online game by researching wolves in your local environment and the impact they have in the web of life.
So, for instance, in the game the wolves hunt elks and try to escape from grizzly bears. But are there elks and grizzly bears in North Carolina? Not outside the zoos or museum they aren't. Those are not the prey or the predators that our local wolves need to deal with. Nor, at least as far as I have been able to tell (and maybe we haven't played the game enough or haven't done well enough as wolves), has the game displayed what happens if your wolves get TOO good at eating other animals and producing too many young.
But this represents a great launching off point from the game. After students have mastered the ability to survive as a wolf in Yellowstone, you can ask them how those results might differ if they were wolves in North Carolina (or whatever state or country you happen to be in). In your local area, who benefits from the wolves? Who is threatened by the wolves? What could overpopulation of wolves in your state do? This won't be found in the video game, but could inspire some interesting offline research, once students have identified with wolves through their game play.
I'm not going to answer that question for North Carolina because I want my son to investigate the issue himself (and he reads my blog). But if people from other areas do this and find out what species win or lose when wolves are around, please add that information below in the comments.