University wolf study raises hackles

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    Patrick Bagley
 

UTAH

The Utah Farm Bureau Federation has a bone to pick with Robert Schmidt's wildlife management class at Utah State University. The class recently studied the biological and economic effects of a hypothetical wolf population in Utah. But when the class took its findings public, the Bureau accused the students of being "pro-wolf" and said they didn't take farmers and ranchers into account.

The howls of protest caught Schmidt and his students off guard. Schmidt believes that wolves from the Northern Rockies will venture south into Utah within 10 years. He and his students say the study is designed to help the state plan for natural wolf recolonization - not reintroduction, which Utah has no current plans for. "If planning for the Olympics is good, then planning for wolves in Utah is no less important," says Schmidt.

The class concluded that one-third of Utah is prime wolf habitat and that the cost of livestock loss from wolf depredation would be significantly less than the loss caused by other predators, such as coyotes.

To date, Utah does not have a wolf-management plan, though the Division of Wildlife Resources has held statewide meetings to gather public opinion. Schmidt hopes the study will serve as the scientific bedrock for a future plan.

The class will next present their report to the state's wolf coordinating committee.