Returning the Wolves to the Wild: The Restoration of a Great Predator

Powerful Essays
A beautiful, clear night in the Rocky Mountain backcountry, stars fill the moonless night sky, and one can not help to think of how peaceful it is. Traveling through the backcountry, you have encountered more wildlife than you have people. Suddenly, the silence of the evening is interrupted by the howl of a wolf, alerting all to its presence. The howl is soon answered by another, closer howl. You can feel the hair stand up on the back of your neck as you realize that you are not alone in the wilderness, with the top predator lurking nearby. As you drift off to sleep, you can not help but to admire the wonderful balance of the natural world. This feeling was once obtainable throughout all of the Rocky Mountains, but now it is limited to a few isolated areas where the gray wolf still runs free.

Vigorous as a predator, affectionate toward its pack, the gray wolf elicits both fear and admiration among humans. This fear, along with ignorance, inspired a movement to eradicate the gray wolf from the lower forty-eight states in the early 1900’s. By the early 1930’s, gray wolf populations had been completely eliminated from the Rocky Mountains (Bangs, et al 147). In 1973, congress passed the Endangered Species Act that protected any wolves that naturally migrated from Canada (U.S. Congress). Public opinion began to shift and the value of the wolf on the ecosystem became understood. In the early 1990’s, planning for a reintroduction of the gray wolf, Canus lupus, to the Greater Yellowstone Wilderness was undertaken (Bangs, et al 148). When the reintroduction began in 1995, it met much public opposition. Wolf restoration was viewed as the embodiment of an ethic of responsibility and there was no better place to appl...

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