REINTRODUCTION OF WOLVES
I stood in the pasture just 300 yards from the rancher’s house, and scanned every direction, seeing dead and injured ewes (fully mature female sheep). One wolf in one night brought devastation and destruction to this rancher’s livelihood. This massacre consisted in the killing of 26 ewes and leaving 18 for dead. It was until this moment in my life, I had “rode the fence” when it came to the common phrase “wolf or rancher”. I know where I stand today and I strongly disagree with the reintroduction wolves, and for many reasons. In 1995 a plan was implemented to reintroduce wolves to the Northern Rocky Mountain area (NRM), which includes the states Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. This reintroduction has been detrimental, to the agricultural industry. The cost to manage and control these predators has come at a high cost, which includes the compensation to ranchers. Hunting big game has dropped drastically. Not to mention the exploitation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by environmental groups to keep the wolf listed so they cannot be managed by the states. For fear of being extinct and loss of tourism revenue these wolves were dropped off into a region more populated with livestock than humans. I feel that this effort has failed miserably.
The reintroduction of wolves started in 1995 in Yellowstone National Park and Northern Idaho, which quickly spread into Montana and Wyoming. It has so far cost $35 million dollars to reintroduce the wolves to the NRM. And will continue to suck up money, estimated that in Yellowstone it's about $200,000 to 1 million dollars per wolf. That is a ridiculous amount of tax payers’ money to be wasted. The rancher who lost 26 ewes and had 18 left for dead ended up saving most of the wounded but that came with a huge expense, losing about $20,000 dollars just for this wolf to kill for fun. There was no reimbursement ever given. This was just one wolf; there are now 1700 total in this NRM area. Aside from tearing these sheep apart at the throat and backsides, the wolf was roaming from one side of the county to the next; a total area of approximately 140 miles. This isn’t the only example of the damage a single wolf can do let alone a pair or a pack. Approximately 1 in 10 livestock kills are confirmed to be from wolves. The wolf doesn’t stop at that, big game animals are also a part of the menu.
A big part of the western states income comes from hunting. It is positive to the economy and a great way to control or manage wildlife also bringing in money for wildlife habitat improvement and wildlife studies. Since this reintroduction the number of elk tags sold in the Yellowstone area has declined from 2,870 to only 100 in 2005 and 0 for the year 2006. I understand that the back bone of this plan was supposed to control the overgrazing caused by elk and other grazers, but I don’t believe it was supposed to completely diminish these herds. One of the largest hunting groups in North America; The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation says that the state should be able to control the wolves “Ultimately achieving an appropriate balance between wildlife, habitat, and people”. (Beckoning) Environmentalists will blame drought and bad winters for the decreasing amounts of herds, but there have always been harsh winters and drought the only factor that changed is simple; there are more wolves. The cost to maintain the wolf population far outweighs its benefits.
The original deal set between Fish and Wildlife services was that when the wolf population in the NRM reached 300; 100 per state and 10 breeding pairs per state they would be delisted from the Endangered Species List. If they reach any lower than those numbers they will remain on the list. Once off this list it would be the states job to control the population of wolves, meaning they could be hunted with a season and a quota set by each state's Fish and Game agencies. The goal of maintaining that population was reached in 2002. The defenders of wildlife was setting money aside to compensate ranchers losses from the wolves, and declared they would no longer donate money to this program once the wolves have been delisted. The public interest law firm; Earthjustice states, “for the first time in history, congress is removing a species… from the Endangered Species List based on political, rather than biological, judgments” (L.A. Times). How can that be true if that goal was reached in 2002? That number has climbed considerably since then; currently at 800+ in Idaho, 500+ in Montana, and 300+ in Wyoming. These numbers are considered to be conservative due to the habitat the wolves live in; dense, forested mountains, it’s impossible to get an accurate count. The wolf makes its home in such thick foliage; we humans will rarely come across one.
The wolf is very elusive and hunts at night, coming across one is considered rare. I know that to many the wolf is praised, protected and looked at like a sacred animal; but introducing them to a place packed with livestock makes no sense. I feel if you want to see a wolf or hear their howl go to the Western Great Lakes (Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota) where the population is about 4,000. Canada and Alaska have so many wolves that there has never been a question to put them on the Endangered Species list; Canada having 50,000 wolves and Alaska with 6,000 to 8,000. You will have a much better chance seeing the wolf in these areas. It just wasn’t necessary to put them in the NRM. The wolf being seen as a tourist attraction to bring in money does not outweigh how much money is brought into these states through hunting, which is now becoming less and less.
I understand what these attempts were trying to accomplish, but by far the cons surpass the pros. Millions of dollars have been wasted to try and manage these predators. The wolves should have been left in their respected territories. Instead of being misplaced and now looked upon like killers.
Beckoning. http://www.thebeckoning.com/wolves/attitudes.html. Revised November 2005. Web. April 21, 2011
Noftsker, Brian. Personal interview. April 21, 2011.