The Case for the American Grey Wolves
As a young man, my father would regale me with stories of his hunting prowess. He was quite honest about it he preferred to small game. However, he also helped me develop respect for the ecosystem of our country. In mid-teens I was taken into the Boundary Waters of Minnesota where I had a brief encounter with a wolf.
At the time, I was enthralled by the scenery I was studying when I had a feeling I was not alone. It is an attitude I have developed throughout my years of camping and hiking. When I looked around, I saw the wolf trotting deeper into the woods. Since then I have made contributions to saving the wolf.
So I became alarmed when I learned that Congress had declared war on the American Wolves. The Senate introduced a bill that would release hunting restrictions on the wolves in four states Minnesota, Michigan, Wyoming, and Wisconsin. A week a similar bill was introduced in the House of Representatives. So to better understand I did some research.
From a person that has a background as a scientist and conservationist, I learned about three possible explanations. According to the author Leda Huta, the first reason is money. State revenues are increased by state fish and wildlife agencies, by the sale of fishing and hunting licenses, and the sale of ammunition. Because these organizations depend on revenue from hunters. It is likely that they are going to cater to hunters who want only humans killing deer and elk. The trophy hunters want to kill wolves.
Secondly, ever since the wolves were reintroduced to the wolves by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Services, the wolf is not considered an essential cog in the ecosystem, but a representative of everything federal.
Lastly, is the mythology, that we have created about wolves. That they are supernatural beasts that threaten our existence, as in Red Riding Hood or stories about Werewolves.
In 2011, Bob Robb wrote in “Six Reasons to Kill Wolves,” is first there are too many wolves. Especially in areas where there is a lot of food, such as Yellowstone National Park. So much so that the wolf was removed from the Endangered Species Act in 2009. He states that in the sports hunting season of 2009 that 72 of 75 targeted wolves were killed in Montana, and 188 of 220 in Idaho.
Secondly, Robb states that wolves decimated the ungulate population. From the hunters, point of view the elk, deer, and moose populations have plummeted. Lower ungulate numbers mean state game managers are forced to offer fewer hunting licenses. This means less revenue for that prospective state.
Then there is the third reason which is the elk and deer are not stupid. They are heading to higher ground to avoid being dinner for wolves. This put a hardship on the hunter because they have to engage the rougher terrain which has caused some hunters to quit hunting.
The fourth reason involves the belief that wolves don’t care what is on the menu. When wolves have less game to hunt, they have wandered into human habitation. When that happens pets and cattle become lunch. However, when ranchers complain about lost livestock and animal rights groups offer to mitigate the cost.
The fifth reason is wolves are the poster boy animals. Wolves are beautiful animals thus making them poster child from animal rights groups. “I’ve actually had officers from some prominent animal rights’ groups tell me that when they need to raise some quick cash, all they have to do is send out a mailer with the picture of a wolf on it that begs their donors for a few bucks to keep the evil hunters from killing these poor, innocent creatures.”1
In the sixth reason, Robb argues that endless litigation holds the wolves protected. Animal run wild are his primary targets. Robb states that these groups advocate letting animals run wild and to stop hunting.
The Other Side
The general consensus before 1995 regarding recovering a damaged area biologists believed that the only way to rebuild plant life before anything else. This meant that healthy plants had to be established first, then insects, small rodents, birds, larger herbivores, and then, at last, the top predators fell into place. However, the Endangered Species Act required the reintroduction of top predators before plant life. So, in 1995, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduced wolves to Yellowstone National Park. Since then the ecological effect named the trophic cascade has taken place. What has happened is that the grey wolves began something more natural than had been seen in sixty-five years: an ecosystem balance.
The Trophic Cascade
The term trophic refers to different levels of the food chain, with plant life at the bottom and the top level predators at the top. An example of a cascade is that of a stream coming to a waterfall. Once the water of the creek flows down the waterfall until it hits a rock and splits forming two waterfalls which hit rocks and creates other waterfalls. Now we can insert the wolf into the scenario.
The method of using the trophic cascade proved to be more of a success than anyone expected. Because the grey wolf preys on the most vulnerable, the diseased, the young, old, weak, and injured, individuals, of the ungulate population, herds of elk, moose, and deer. Because of the wolves method of hunting, it aids in the regulation herd size distribution which impacts biodiversity. Otherwise, elk, deer, moose overgraze the vegetation, which leads to the degradation of their habitat. Which in turn, leads to damaging effects on other native wildlife.
When the wolves were removed, smaller predator grew and with growth increase their range. This led to exploitation of their prey. An example of this occurred in the southeastern United States when red wolves were eliminated. After the red wolves elimination, the raccoon and coyote numbers rose sharply. This caused the reduction of wild turkeys and small predators such as foxes which preyed on smaller mammals. The smaller mammals were found to be responsible for infesting ticks with Lyme disease and with the more significant populations of smaller mammals Lyme disease has spread.
Because of the deer, elk and moose willow and aspen stands have regenerated. Along with the restoration of streambed vegetation native habitats for native birds, fish, and beaver. Aquatic habitats were improved by stabilizing channels and controlling erosion.
The impact on the survival of pronghorn, for the better because of the competition between coyote and wolves. Yellowstone National Park reported in 2007 that in some areas of the park the coyote population had been reduced by 50 percent. As a result, the increase in the pronghorn population was seen to rise from 20 percent to 70 percent. The populations of the red fox also saw an increase.
Eagles, bears, and magpies have benefited from the presence of the wolf because these carrion-feeders live on the remains left by wolves. The remains of the kills by wolves help other species survive stress filled winters.
The return of the grey wolves has also has helped aquatic, riparian vegetation. Sin the ungulates are no longer overgrazing the plant life along stream beds has grown stronger. Beaver had also returned to Yellowstone.
Many a time, sitting around campfires and I have stared at the starry canopy above wondered at the mind that put together this amazing world. After the research I’ve done, I am convinced that our wolves are an intricate part of our ecology. I do believe that animals should be able to run and free. That is when they are the most beautiful. I do not condone disbanding hunting, but I do not like methods being used., such as hunting from airplanes or using automatic weapons. Iconic predators such as the grizzly bear and the grey wolf are not food. However when money is involved the environment and ecology lose.