Living With Wolves: Science Must Inform Politics

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Reviled by ranchers and hunters, managed through “harvesting” by state wildlife agencies, with ardent conservationists its last hope, the gray wolf has cut a controversial wake in the North American landscape ever since it was reintroduced from Canada in 1995. Watch the film on Earth Focus.

Yellowstone National Park, gray wolves, wolf wars

About 2.6 million cattle, including calves, live in Montana. Seventy-four killed by wolves in 2011 out of 2.6 million is less than 0.003 percent. As of 2012, the Montana elk population statewide was doing well, with numbers at an all-time high of 112,000. The irrational hysteria about wolves from ranchers and hunters in the west is not based on science, just ignorance and hatred.

Will We Ever Coexist With Gray Wolves?

By Brandon Baker, Published in EcoWatch

Conservationists, hunters and politicians have debated about gray wolves for decades, while the animals were left to accept the closest thing resembling a consensus.

The animal was nearly extinct by the 1930s, but was eventually protected by the federal Endangered Species Act in 1973. Three years ago, its protections were stripped. Adding more damage, states like Idaho have since made it even easier to kill wolves through legislation.

“To me wolves mean wildness and wild nature… I think that what we see here in Yellowstone with the presence of wolves now, is a leaner, meaner elk population… The elk out here in the landscape, there’s fewer of them and there’s less competition between the elk for resources such as good forage. And so I think we have a a healthier elk population now…”  — Dan Stahler, National Park Service Wildlife Biologist

Earth Focus traveled to Wyoming and Montana to discover if humans and wolves will ever fully coexist. Interview subjects range from Yellowstone National Park biologists to environmentalists and bow hunters.

STORY: Jay Mallonee on Roaming with the Wolf Pack


Earth Focus Episode 51 - Shades of Gray: Living with Wolves

“Wolves were definitely thrown under the bus for political reasons,” says Mike Leahy from Defenders of Wildlife, a powerful conservation advocacy group that strongly opposes the delisting of wolves.” I think the Obama administration responded to the politics of the situation. Never before had a Secretary of the Interior taken a step to undermine the Endangered Species Act like this… the democratic leadership in the Obama administration all went along with that. We were really disappointed in how the politics played out there.”

There is good scientific evidence that wolves and other predators are “self regulating.” They do not need to be “managed.” Social interactions in all predators serve to limit population numbers, along with the normal mortality associated with the dangerous proposition of depending on killing other large, strong animals for your food.  — George Wuerthner, The Wildlife News

Hunters plead for “scientific management” of wildlife in Montana. Yet, they choose to ignore peer-reviewed studies such as one from 2005: Vucetich and others wrote: “In the period following wolf reintroduction to YNP (1995-2004), the northern Yellowstone elk herd declined from ~17,000 to ~8,000 elk (8.1% yr). The extent to which wolf predation contributed to this decline is not obvious because the influence of other factors (human harvest and lower than average annual rainfall) on elk dynamics has not been quantified. According to the best model,which accounts for harvest rate and climate, the elk population would have been expected to decline by 7.9% per year… (C)limate and harvest rate are justified explanations for most of the observed elk decline.”  — Norman Bishop, The Wildlife News

STORY: Wolves Forsaken By Wildlife Agencies, Hunters and Ranchers

EARTH FOCUS airs every Thursday at 9 p.m. ET (6 p.m. PT) on Link TV—channel 375 on DIRECTV and channel 9410 on DISH Network. Episodes are also available to watch online at linktv.org/earthfocus.

Reposted with permission from EcoWatch.

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WilderUtopia.com regularly posts articles, photo essays, features, and documentaries from around the web that illuminate the challenges to coexistence between city and wild, developed and developing, human and other.