This letter is in response to an online-only piece from our community blog, the Range, entitled: Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?
As an ecologist, it's frustrating to see so many folks so wolf-crazy. Don't get me wrong: I like wolves. I remember all the times I've seen wolves fondly. But, as Smith says, the wolf situation in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is a textbook recovery. Going from a few wolves in highly separated locations to many breeding pairs and packs spread across a relatively large and contiguous area is a successful reintroduction any way you slice it. The planned and clearly stated end point for a recovered species under the Endangered Species Act is removal from the list.
The fear that wolves will suddenly be wiped off the landscape is naive. Poison is not being used, nor are wolves being killed with reckless abandon. Instead, coordinated hunting seasons have been instituted in some states that allow a take far below a number that would eliminate wolves.
There are almost 2,000 other species on the endangered species list. Wolves are doing pretty darn well, but a ton of other species aren't. Those guys would probably be pretty happy if all the money wasted on wolf litigation was diverted to their needs.
There were also a few dubious facets of the livestock issues mentioned in the piece. Sure, only a handful of many cows on the landscape are predated by wolves. Unfortunately, wolves -- at least here in Alberta -- often kill in localized areas. So while in the grand scheme of things not too many cattle are lost, if you're a producer losing eight cows in a season, that is actually a lot of loss. As for the figure so glibly thrown out in the article with regard to compensation -- "roughly $142,000 for 369 losses to wolves" -- that's only $384.83 per lost animal! I know there was no mention of exactly what kinds of livestock were lost and compensated for, but the market value of a cow in Alberta is $1,500, give or take. $384.83 is a pretty insulting undervaluation for a cow, or a livelihood. People always forget that ranches and ranchers provide wolf habitat. There's a lot of private land that provides a lot of habitat for critters.
If science is to drive policy, as it absolutely should, dig into the science -- either social or ecological -- to back your opinions.
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada