Posted in News

Canis Lupus: To List or De-List?

In the mid 1990’s, the federal government reintroduced wolves into Yellowstone National Park in hopes of restoring this animal to its natural landscape after eradication from much of North America.

Since their reintroduction to the region, wolves have been steadily recovering and scientists believed 300 wolves distributed across the Northern Rockies demonstrated this recovery. Since conservation biology has advanced over the years, Biologists now say that animal populations must number in the thousands in order for them to be genetically viable.

However, because of a perceived abundance of these creatures, the gray wolf is no longer protected under the endangered species act. In Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, wolf hunting will be allowed for the first time in decades. Environmental groups are now threatening to sue to keep the gray wolves listed as endangered species for many reasons. For example, since delisting, Wyoming has implemented its “kill on sight” predator law in the majority of the state resulting in a rush of new wolf killings, further threatening already vulnerable populations.

In addition, three subpopulations of wolves in Central Idaho, Montana, and the Greater Yellowstone Area — have largely remained isolated populations. The Sierra Club is opposed to de-listing because, in the future, populations will suffer from inbreeding without connectivity to other wolf populations. Perhaps if the wolf can achieve the status of big-game trophy it will have the support of groups similar to Ducks Unlimited and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation who can effectively advocate to get adequate protection from government game managers. That is unlikely though because wolves are considered a threat to human safety and livelihood in ways that ducks and elk are simply not. However, a more practical, balanced approach to wolf management and conservation is badly needed.

For thousands of years, people lived alongside the healthy wolf populations of the American west. Efforts to exterminate wolves over much of the last century seriously damaged the ecosystems in which wolves played a vital role. Returning wolves to their natural place and state made amends for these actions but it is now as important as ever to ensure that recent conservation efforts are not also eradicated.

(Visited 13 times, 1 visits today)

Read Ethical Traveler's Reprint Policy.