of Wolf Management in Yellowstone
"Modern wolves and modern humans evolved in the same era. You could
probably even say that they co-evolved. So, even though most of
you probably have never seen a wild wolf, you know wild wolves in
-Thomas McNamee, The Return of the Wolf to Yellowstone
In 1872 Yellowstone National Park was created by an act of congress
for the preservation of "natural curiosities or wonders". At
that time hunters shot many wolves, coyotes, and large ungulates
for meat and skins within the park boundaries. By 1914, an extermination
campaign had begun to eliminate all animals that would interfere
with agriculture or ranching. The wolf topped that list,and by 1926,
wolves that had once reached population levels of up to 136 members,
were gone from Yellowstone ecosystem.
For nearly 50 years wolves remained absent from the Yellowstone
ecosystem and absent from the public mind. Few people missed the
wolf and even fewer advocated its return. Unknowingly, President
Nixon opened the door for wolf reintroductions in 1972 by banning
key predator poisons on public lands. Shortly thereafter, the EPA
extended this mandate to private lands. In 1973 the Endangered Species
Act was enacted. Soon thereafter the Rocky Mountain Grey wolf was
listed as endangered and a recovery team was established. The door
that held the wolves back had begun to creek open.
In 1978, the first official recommendation to reintroduce wolves
came from a biologist for the National Park Service. John Weaver
claimed that wolves were no longer residents to the Yellowstone
ecosystem and should be introduced. At about that time, an organization
called Defenders of Wildlife
began to get more involved with the reintroduction effort.
This organization had been quietly advocating the return of wolves
to natural habitats since 1968 but had yet to take a real stand.
Things were quickly changing. From here on out Defenders would play
a major role in the reintroduction effort.
From 1968-1988 legislation was introduced that would pave the way
for wolves to be reintroduced to Yellowstone. Most of these bills
did not pass, but they did begin to pique public interest. In 1988
republican Jim McClure wrote in Defenders magazine that he "was
interested in trying to restore balance to Yellowstone National
Park. The wolf in the only missing piece". McClure stated that as
long as wolf reintroduction provided protection for rancher interests
he would back the plan. In less than a year, Defenders had established
a 100,000 compensation fund to reimburse ranchers for losses due
to wolf depredation and 5,000 for any person who lets a wolf
successfully breed on their property.
In 1991, Defenders sued Fish and Wildlife to force
reintroduction. Congress then voted for a wolf environmental impact
statement or EIS and dismissed the lawsuit. Things really began
to heat up and Defenders of Wildlife was stoking the fire. The first
draft of the wolf EIS was released on July 1, 1994 and public hearings
began. These hearings drew positive support and official reintroduction
Efforts were temporally stalled by the Wyoming Farm Bureau when
a lawsuit was filled that claimed wolf reintroduction would cause
"irreparable harm" to ranchers. On January 3, 1995 the lawsuit was
denied by U.S. District Judge William Downes in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Wild wolves caught in Alberta, Canada began the shipment process
to the United States. On January 9, the Farm Bureau won a temporary
stay order from an appellate court in Denver. This did not last
long, so on January 12 the wolves that began the shipment process
from Alberta more than a week prior, arrived in Yellowstone and
were placed in an enclosure that would be home for the next few
weeks. This group was made of 14 wolves that comprised three family
groups. After being absent from Yellowstone for nearly 70 years,
wolves had returned.