Restoring Wolves to Yellowstone

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Restoring Wolves to Yellowstone

In his book, Never Cry Wolf, Farley Mowat tells an Inuit tale, saying that in the beginning, caribou were created for humans to hunt. However, humans “hunted only the big, fat caribou, for they had no wish to kill the weak and the small and the sick,” creating a weak population of caribou. The creator then made wolves to eat the sick, weak, and small caribou, creating a natural health and balance to the earth (124). Humans have traditionally seen wolves as a competitor and a danger, but these misconceptions can now be put to rest. Because wolves regulate the carrying capacity, preserve the health of herds, and complete the ecological cycle in a balanced system, they must be restored to Yellowstone.

To understand why wolves should inhabit the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE), we must first look to history. As Douglas Smith et al say, “The history of wolves in North America and the west is straightforward: we killed them” (108). This statement may sound simplified, but actual wolf extermination was thoughtless and thorough. Many wolves were removed from regions where they weren’t even threats to humans or livestock (Klinghammer 446) because wolves, like grizzlies, were perceived as competitors for land and food. Unlike grizzly bears, wolves didn’t survive in the Northern Rocky Mountains because of poisonings, shootings, and bounties for their pelts (Barker 177). These actions caused the extinction of wolves in western states, changing the ecosystems by eliminating a natural predator.

The reasons for this genocide, according to David Mech, were “the possible predation by the wolf upon man. . ., competition by the wolf for man’s livestock, and the possible competition by the wolf for wild animals that man regards as game” (289). Each concern needs to be addressed to move to move arguments beyond social threats to ecological issues.

The first threat, the danger of wolves to humans, is rarely known outside of fairy-tales. The only existent evidence of wolf-induced danger remains in countries with less wild prey, more protection of domesticated animals, and less protection of young children than in the U.S. (Mech 291). In Superior National Forest, which has many wolves, there have been 1909 recorded visitor days “without any incident of wolves attacking humans” (US Cong 101st 79).
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