These beautiful animals were recently removed from the endangered species list, making way for the hunting of them this fall. A judge has temporarily put them back on the endangered list and the hunt has been canceled. In light of this new development, I thought I’d post an older article I’d written on them.
The North American Gray Wolf
I see the North American Gray Wolf as a beautiful and majestic creature that deserves our dedication to its survival just as any other animal on this earth. Due to misconceptions and fear, this majestic animal has been hunted to near extinction.
During the 1900’s the gray wolf was almost wiped out. It’s on the US endangered species list, but there have been moves in some states to have it removed. In Yellowstone National Park, the last remaining gray wolf was killed in 1926. The loss of the gray wolf from Yellowstone was caused by widespread elimination by humans who perceived the wolves as a danger to livestock and family. With the wolves gone, the elk in the park so dramatically increased as to cause a severe adverse affect on other species in the park, both plant and animal.
There has never been a documented case of serious injury or death from a gray wolf attack on humans in North America. This isn’t so with domestic dogs. Between 1979 and 1996 there were 301 documented cases of deaths in the US by domestic dog attacks. I’m sure this number has risen since 1996.
In 1995 and 1996 there was a reintroduction of the gray wolf to Yellowstone in spite of much opposition. Congress cut appropriations to the Fish and Wildlife Service expressly to prohibit the reintroduction. This attempt failed because private wildlife organizations raised $100,000, which allowed the project to proceed.
Ranchers worried that the reintroduction of the gray wolf would cause them financial ruin because of the hunting of the wolves on livestock. A legitimate concern in their mind. Gray wolves do kill livestock, but this doesn’t happen as often as one might think. They actually prefer wild prey. To alleviate concerns, the Defenders of Wildlife agreed to compensate ranchers for any documented loss of livestock due to wolf kills. There have been very few claims filed.
The project for the reintroduction of the Gray Wolf to Yellowstone has been successful and I hope it will continue to be.
I found a poll on a site not long ago that asked this question:
If the Fish and Wildlife Service predicted a human death by wolf attack, would any of the defenders of the reintroduction of the gray wolf to Yellowstone change their opinion?
I would certainly not change my opinion. Bears attack, seriously injure, and kill humans every year, but I don’t see anyone screaming for the elimination of bears from North America.
If I were to be hiking, I’d much rather surprise a gray wolf in the woods than a bear. I think my chances of survival would be much higher with the wolf. How about you?