Friday, November 18, 2011

After Years of Conflict, a New Dynamic in Wolf Country

The case of the gray wolf in Yellowstone National Park is a classic example of how the Endangered Species Act is effective in saving species nearing extinction. The endangered population started with 66 captive-bred gray wolves reintroduced into the park in 1995 and 1996 and is now over 1,500 and is continuing to increase. The wolves restored balance to the ecosystem which had previously been thrown "out of whack" by the surplus of herbivores and primary carnivores. Lawmakers are now demanding that the gray wolf be removed from the endangered species list; however, many conservationists are concerned that once the protection granted by the ESA are removed, farmers will continue the practices of shooting and poisoning the wolves that made them endangered in the first place. From the farmers' points of view, the decision to reintroduce the wolves was "'shoved down their throats with a plunger'" and they deserve the right to shoot any wolf that comes onto their land and threatens their livestock. The farmers claim that the wolves kill their animals and have drastic effects on the average weight of the animals since they spend so much time looking for a predator rather than eating. Conservationists are now working with farmers to find a compromise. They are training horseman to guard pastures and allowing some wolves to be hunted. For now the gray wolf remained listed as an endangered species and will remain so until sufficient management plans are in place to ensure the gray wolf population is safe.

Kimberly Crispin

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