The Great Wolf Debate

Posted on June 10, 2009 by Courtney

Wolves have been in the news a good bit over the past few months, from the success stories of their reintroduction into the Upper MIdwest to Sarah Palin’s support of shooting them from aircraft. Now there’s a new lawsuit pending in my new stomping ground, the Northern Rockies, which seeks to prevent wolves from being legally hunted in the very areas to which they were reintroduced just a few years ago.

A decision made by the Bush administration and upheld by Obama in April has kept wolves off the endangered species list in Montana and Idaho.  The lawsuit, filed by environmentalists, seeks to prevent the legal public hunting of wolves in these states. They’re still endangered in Wyoming, but the state’s attorney general has requested that wolves be open to public hunting. If his request is granted by a federal judge, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar lawsuit filed in Wyoming, especially if wolves are taken off the endangered species list here.

Wolves were slowly reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park, which straddles Montana and Wyoming, beginning in 1995. Though the reintroduction started with just 14 wolves captured from Canada and transported to the area, it’s been remarkably successful. There are an estimated 1,645 wolves in the area today.

Support for hunting wolves largely comes from ranchers, who complain that wolves kill their livestock and big game herds. Wolves that prey on livestock are caught and removed from the area by federal wildlife agents, but ranchers say that’s not enough. Wyoming actually has a law saying wolves can be shot on sight, but that law is overruled by wolves’ inclusion on the endangered species list, which is a federal regulation. 

What do you think? Do ranchers make a good point in requesting their livestock be protected from predators, and is hunting wolves the best answer to that problem? If so, is there a responsible way to do that without sending the wolf population to the brink of extinction again? Or should we leave the wolves alone altogether? Do tell.

No Comments +

  1. What you should do isn’t all that difficult to carry out: a survey of all the prey animals available to the wolves, to make sure that they have enough prey and aren’t attacking the rancher’s animals out of desperation (30,000 prey animals needed to support 1500 wolves). If there aren’t enough prey animals, cull the wolves (limited hunting permits). If there are…

    I’ve always been told that wolves do not contribute overly to livestock deaths. But in the case that the ranchers are correct, that wolves are indeed killing their livestock, then perhaps looking into moving or eliminating entire packs, rather than the single lone wolf, would be more effective.

    I also have to wonder just how far they move the wolf if it gets caught. A wolf isn’t going to think much of 100+ miles if it means a free buffet at the end.

    June 10th, 2009 at 2:32 pm
    Comment by Jules
  2. I think we should leave the wolves alone. They were there long before us and the entire would would be better off if we didn’t eat a meat based diet which takes more resources to grow livestock than fruits, vegetables and grains.

    June 10th, 2009 at 3:10 pm
    Comment by Vanessa
  3. I think that only a certain amount of wolves should be reintroduced back into their natural ‘world’. In the 1st place, we as humans are not wolf prey, we are their predators!!!! Hunting an endangered species should be illegal. The actual threat is received from humans.
    Anyways, yes, i guess that sometimes wolves pose a dangerous posture. When let back into the ‘wild’, their natural instinct will overrun them and the trained will be struggling to notice which options are correct. Researchers and observers should keep a close watch to make sure that things are going the right way.

    June 11th, 2009 at 10:49 pm
    Comment by Ruthney
  4. I would be fine with ranchers protecting there livestock but not okay with a hunting season.

    Oklahoma just legalized a black bear hunting season and aerial hunting.

    June 13th, 2009 at 9:36 pm
    Comment by Lisa

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