Gunning for Wolves

Wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone Park has been the most popular and most environmentally justified endangered species reintroduction effort....opposition to wolves in Yellowstone has been extremely mean-spirited. However, once the appeals court has reviewed the law and the reintroduction effort, we are confident that it will permit the wolves to stay. They are the capstone to the Yellowstone ecosystem.
— Brian O'Neill, attorney, appeal of Court Order to Remove Yellowstone Wolves

Despite the great success of wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone Park, a success well documented on international online media, there is still a section of population in Wyoming and beyond that seems entrenched in opposition. Many resist the wolves' protected status and have fought hard either to get rid of them entirely, or else to obtain hunting rights close to the park's borders. Idaho and Montana, which border the park, already allow wolf hunting. This year ranchers in Wyoming, which has the largest border, have also been granted a wolf hunting season.

Wolf biologist, Douglas Smith has been one of the main forces instrumental in the introduction of wolves to the GYA (Greater Yellowstone Area). He is proud of that achievement, though it hasn't been easy, and is an ongoing process of education in the face of continued hostility. He argues that to sustain our future ecology we must start to think differently. Wolves are still seen as a 'critter' to be eradicated for the protection of farming herds: elk, cattle and sheep. This opinion must change in view of overwhelming evidence for the benefits this apex species brings to the natural ecology of the park, and beyond.

What the wolf experiment in Yellowstone has shown Douglas and his colleagues, is that a wolf who isn't hunted by humans behaves very differently from one who is. At the moment tourists flock to see the wolves, who live out their lives confidently in full view of both a fascinated public and edified scientists. He is concerned that as wolves move beyond the park boundaries to face the guns, this will have a bearing on the way they behave within the park. Signs already begin to show this, as the wolves within the park become less visible and more wary of humans.

The wolf is no longer on the endangered list in the US thanks to the efforts of conservationists like Douglas, and the chances of it being extirpated through hunting as it had been in the 1920s are remote. The Yellowstone wolves are still protected. But as soon as they stray beyond the park into the wild lands of Wyoming their numbers will be under attack once more, and ecology in the wild lands would not get the same chance to benefit from their presence.

Watch Douglas Smith speak eloquently on this issue:


What do you think? should wolves be hunted around the wildlife parks that nurture them, or should they continue to enjoy a degree of protection? Have your say in the comments below.