in Wolf Management in Yellowstone Park
This section is designed to tell the reader who the major players
that are involved in the Yellowstone wolf issue. More information
is available from the links posted at the end of each section.
It has been the concern of ranchers over the safety of livestock
that has fueled the debate over wolf reintroduction in the Greater
Yellowstone Ecosystem. For over 100 years the ranching
community has actively removed predators from their lands. The
ranchers are again worried about the safety of their livestock with
such a major predator roaming free in the area. The loss of cattle
or sheep may not only cause financial hardship, but also an emotional
loss. Before re-introduction ranchers around Yellowstone felt that
any losses of cattle were unacceptable. Many ranchers still feel
this way, but there are a few options that ranchers have. Wolf caught
killing livestock can be shot legally; a fund has also been established
by Defenders of Wildlife
to reimburse ranchers for any livestock proven to be wolf killed.
† Wolves found in a legal livestock grazing area will be relocated.
With all these options available to ranchers some feel that wolves
may not be the problem, but rather what the wolves represent, the
government instituting control. Find out more about ranchers and
the extent of wolf
predation, or to find out how much Defenders of wildlife have
American Farm Bureau:
After Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt announced that wolves would
be reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park the American farm bureau,
and the individual farm bureaus for the states of Idaho, Montana,
and Wyoming filed suit. The message
sent was that wolves posed a threat to area ranchers and livestock.
The farm bureau and a local family believed that prior to the reintroduction
wolves already inhabited that area. The farm bureau wanted all wolves
captured and returned to Canada, not killed. For more information
on the American Farm Bureau and this issue visit an
article on the court victory for AFB, and a follow-up commentary
on this case.
Some environmental groups initially opposed the reintroduction
of wolves in Yellowstone because these wolves were not fully protected
under the Endangered Species Act. Website The reintroduced wolves
were only partially protected and listed as a nonessential experimental
population. National Audubon Society and Earthjustice Legal Defense
Fund filed suit, claiming that the gray wolf was not getting the
full protection that it deserved under the endangered species act.
After Judge Downes ruling calling
for the removal of the wolves, Audubon sided with the other environmental
groups to appeal the ruling. Some of the major groups include Defenders
of Wildlife, National Wildlife Federation, and Yellowstone Association,
these groups provide much of the money that is needed to pay for
the livestock lost to wolf predation. For more information, visit
essay , or visit Environmental Organizations themselves.
With the possibility of seeing wolves, the annual increase of revenue
in and around Yellowstone has been estimated to be 43 million dollars.
The number of tourists visiting the park each year has also increased
since reintroduction. Before reintroduction a phone poll as well
as a gate poll was taken to determine how wolves would be accepted.
Polls of the visitors showed that 80% wanted wolves back in the
park. In the tri-state area the opinion was more closely divided,
with only 49% in favor, 43% opposed and 8% didnít know. Nationally
57% were in favor of wolves, 29% were opposed, and 14 percent didnít
know. For info on visitor
Previous to the introduction of wolves in Yellowstone the number
of natural predators on the ungulate population was limited. Hunters
feel that with wolves controlling the ungulate population there
will be fewer animals available for their sport. Out of 90,000 ungulates,
hunters take about 14,000 annually. So far the main prey base for
the wolf is elk. Their diet does seem to be changing, as that shifts
the hunting availability will also. Hunters may be in luck when
the wolf is de-listed and states start managing wolf populations.
Most likely there will be a season on wolves, how that will be regulated
is up to the individual states involved. For info on how
hunting has been affected.
In 1978 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) listed the gray
wolf as endangered. Under this listing the ESA requires that the
FWS complete recovery plans. It was decided that Yellowstone Park
was a key area for a wolf recovery effort. Working jointly with
the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service, the USFWS
completed the Environmental
Impact Statement. After the environmental impact statement showed
that wolf introduction to the park would not significantly impact
ungulate populations or livestock; Secretary of the Interior Babbitt
went ahead with the re-introduction and filed the final EIS with
the U.S Environmental Protection Agency in May 1994. To learn more
about Federal protection
and recovery planning. To learn about how the USFWS works regionally.
Yellowstone offers scientists a rare opportunity to study an ecosystem
before and after a predator is introduced. Currently there are many
researchers studying interactions of wolves
with other species, including elk, coyote, and mountain lions.
Researchers have also played an important role in the reintroduction.
While the USFWS was developing an EIS it was up to the scientists
to determine the impact that wolves would have. To keep tabs on
the wolves researchers monitor individuals with radio collars. Each
pack has a team of wolf biologists, studying the interactions and
movements of the pack. For more information on current
research in the Park.
Federal management of wolf populations is mandated because of its
endangered species status. The states of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming
have really had very little, if any, control. The wolf will be de-listed
after its recovery goals are met (which is at least ten breeding
pairs of wolves must be maintained for at least three consecutive
years in each of three recovery areas). The states then will get
management control. All three states involved must have biologically
sound and socially acceptable wolf management plans in place, if
they are to manage this population.