Wolf cry

February 7, 2007

Wolf reintroduction to several places in the United States has been such a success that the federal government is planning to remove the wolf from the endangered species list. (Ralph Maughn’s Wildlife News blog covers this issue in detail.)

As if in a bad melodrama, some states are rubbing their hands in glee, planning hunts to more than decimate the wild populations, once the delisting is complete. In its excellent science section yesterday, the New York Times explained the issue, and featured wonderful photos of wolves.

For anyone interested, the issues with elk are also covered at Maughn’s blog, with an photo showing some of the serious mismanagement of elk that may be alleviated with introduction of wild wolves as predators.

Wolf in Yellowstone national Park, NPS photo

In my several trips through Yellowstone National Park dating back to the 1950s, I had never seen a wolf until our last foray in 2003. At the same time, there are significant changes in the Park’s natural environment plainly visible. To my delight some prime moose habitat has returned in recent years. Grassy areas in some stream and river bottoms are turning back into more mixed plants, with willows and bushes intruding. This makes it more difficult to see wildlife, sometimes.

But it’s a good effect, and it’s a result of the introduction of the wolves. Elk graze in those areas, and they eat the willows and other bushes, keeping the river bottoms more like prairies than forest. Wolves love to hunt elk in those places, however, and the presence of wolves has put the elk on alert. Elk spend less time grazing the brush back, and the brush grows, providing habitat for a number of other animals, habitat that had been in serious decline.

One might wonder if some people are serious about these issues at all.

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