Wolves are an icon of the vast and untamed wilderness of the American West. Against all odds, they persevere and have the ability to overcome every obstacle to their survival — except a hunter’s bullet.
Benefits Of WolvesWolf Packs Of Yellowstone
The gray wolf once roamed nearly all of the United States in numbers estimated at some 2 million. One hundred years ago, government sponsored extermination programs drove wolves to near extinction. By 1967, there were fewer than 1,000 wolves left in northeastern Minnesota.
The Endangered Species Act was signed into law in 1973 to protect species from extinction. In 1974, gray wolves were designated as an endangered species and began to receive federal protection. This act led to some recovery of the species, but the recovery is a long way from over.
Powerful special interests like ranchers, trophy hunters, and the oil, gas, and mining industries have impeded the recovery. They want to reduce wolf populations for self-interest and use misinformation such as overstating the impact of wolves on livestock depredation and elk population to justify the killing.
“Wolf management” is the norm in the individual states where wolves have been removed (delisted) from the endangered species list. The states use hunting in an effort to reduce wolf populations down to a bare minimum. The long-term sustainability of these minimum wolf populations is questionable.
Wolves Deserve Respect in Our Culture
Wolves are majestic and play an essential role in balancing ecosystems. Unfortunately, they still suffer consequences from myths and falsehoods. They are not the big, bad wolf from the storybook nor the savage wolf portrayed in the media. They need your help to dispel the myths and change our culture from fear to the respect they deserve and to help end the attack on wolves.
Wolves are a Powerful Symbol of American Heritage
Wolves are an icon of the vast and untamed wilderness of the American West. Against all odds, they persevere and have the ability to overcome every obstacle to their survival — except a hunter’s bullet. Wolves embody the strength and freedom on which this country was founded.
Wolves are Not a Threat
Wolves are misunderstood and falsely portrayed as dangerous to humans. In reality, wild wolves fear humans. In Canada and Alaska where 70,000 wolves live, there have only been two documented wolf-caused human deaths over the past seventy years. There have been no documented deaths, ever, in the lower 48 states. Dog attacks, drowning, hunting accidents, lightning strikes, and even cattle pose a much greater threat to humans than wolves.
Wolf-caused livestock depredation is minuscule. In 2017, livestock depredations attributed to wolves were approximately 0.002% and 0.01% in Montana and Wyoming, respectively. Livestock are much more likely to die of disease, birthing-related problems, and from the elements than from wolves.
Wolves Enhance Ecosystems
Wolves play a vital role in their ecosystems. Since wolves were reintroduced to the American West in 1995, research has shown that they have helped revitalize and restore ecosystems. Wolves have been known to improve habitats and increase populations of countless species including birds, fish, and more. Their presence alone influences the population and behavior of their prey, changing the way they move about the land. This, in turn, ripples throughout plant and animal communities, often altering the landscape itself. For this reason, wolves are known as a “keystone species,” whose presence is crucial to maintaining the health, structure, and balance of ecosystems.
Wolves Benefit the Economy
Wolf-oriented ecotourism is a huge social trend. Visitors from all over the world come to Yellowstone just to see wolves. That’s because Yellowstone is the best place to see wolves in the wild! A National Park Service report shows that 4.1 million people visited Yellowstone in 2017, generating $629.6 million to the park’s neighboring communities which Yellowstone supports. A park visitor survey showed that the number one draw for tourists is wildlife, specifically wolves and grizzly bears.
Wolves make prey populations healthier
Wolves target prey that are vulnerable, such as weak, sick, old, or young animals. By killing sick prey, wolves take out infectious members of the herd that have the potential to transmit the disease to others. In this manner, wolves help to reduce the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) which is similar to mad cow disease. Wolves are natures best defense to CWD and an unexpected ally in protecting the West’s most popular big game animals could be a hard reality for some hunters who have long opposed the predators.
Coexistence and Non-Lethal Deterrents
In this day and age, there should be a way we can all work together to coexist with species in the wild. In order to do their part to help coexist, progressive ranchers are turning to the use of non-lethal deterrents with much success. This is especially important because many ranchers use public lands at a subsidized cost to graze their livestock. These public lands are owned by all the people and should be open territory for all species to live. While livestock depredation by wolves is miniscule at less than one half of a percent, there are a number of non-lethal options a rancher can use to reduce the risk of depredation even more.
- Reducing Attractants
- Barriers – Fladry and Fencing
- Livestock Protection Dogs
- Human Presence as a Non-lethal Measure
- Alarm or Scare Devices
- Hazing or Physically Scaring Wolves
- Livestock Management/Husbandry Changes
- Experimental Practice
Instead, many livestock owners and state wildlife management agencies choose to use lethal methods despite non-lethal options being readily available. Lethal methods are controversial. The result of killing a pack member is reducing pack size. Smaller packs have more difficulty and more difficulty bringing down big prey which may actually lead to more depredation.
Wolves are Being Killed in Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho
A staggering number of wolves have been killed In Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho since they were removed from the federal Endangered Species List and placed under state management. In the most recent reporting year, over 700 wolves were killed in these states through hunting and trapping. An unknown number were also poached. Others were killed through lethal control. The estimated regional wolf population is only 2,000, so such a huge population loss is unsustainable for the long term. This continued pace of killing puts wolves on a perilous path back towards extinction.
Yellowstone Wolves Are Being Targeted by Trophy Hunters
Yellowstone wolves are in danger of being shot or trapped each year simply because they follow prey across an invisible park boundary. In 2017, the deaths of five Yellowstone wolves were human-caused. Four were killed in the Montana trophy hunt, and one was poached in the park. In 2018, three leaders of their packs have already been killed in the Montana wolf hunting season. Two were alphas with Yellowstone ties plus another who was the matriarch of her pack. Three bullets ended the lives of three wolves who were important leaders in their family units.
Unfortunately, Yellowstone’s wolves are acclimated to the presence of park visitors practically from the day they emerge from their natal dens. They don’t realize that the people who constantly take their pictures and gaze at them through spotting scopes are different from those waiting with guns for them to wander outside the park’s boundary. Having no fear of the presence of people makes Yellowstone’s wolves easy prey for trophy hunters.
Wolf Packs in Yellowstone National Park
As part of the federal extermination programs, the last wild wolves in the Yellowstone National Park were killed in 1924 when two pups were killed near Soda Butte. After 70 years of absence, wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995, 1996, and 1997 to manage the rising elk population which had been overgrazing the park. Their presence has made the whole ecosystem healthier.
From a high of 175 wolves in the park in 2003, the wolf population has decreased to a number that stabilized to about 100 wolves over the past 10 years and has decreased to about the 68 wolves of today. The population is surely fragile.
8 Mile Pack
Founded in 2010. They moved into the park from Montana.
Lamar Canyon Pack
Founded in 2010.
Junction Butte Pack
Founded in 2012.
Founded in 1995.
Cougar Creek Pack
Founded in 2001
Founded in 2003.
Wapiti Lake Pack
Founded in 2015.
Wapiti Lake Pack Splinter Group
8 Mile Splinter Group
To learn more about the packs visit the Yellowstone Wolf Family Tree. Jim Halfpenny and Leo Leckie have been documenting the pedigree and heritage of wolf restoration from 1995 to the present. To request an invitation to view the family tree, go to www.wolfgenes.info and select the Ancestry tab.
How to Help Wolves Across the Nation and Yellowstone Wolves
Yellowstone wolves are in grave danger and need a No-Wolf-Hunt Zone to protect them when they cross the invisible park boundary and are in danger of being hunted.
Even more threatening is a proposal by the Trump administration to remove endangered species protections from gray wolves all across the country.
Save Wolves From Losing Their Protections
Wolves all need your help. Please visit saveourwolves.org to make a comment letting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service know wolves are important to you and you do not want to see them lose their federal protections. This is a critical point in gray wolf recovery and your comment is key to helping wolves stay protected. Please make your comment today!