Wolves seem to be one of the most controversial topics of recent years for those of us living in their old stomping grounds. Since the 1930's they were hunted nearly to extinction for their hides, then they were hunted because they were killing cows, sheep, and other livestock. Stories of children being dragged off and eaten were not uncommon during the years of hatred and fear. In 1974 grey wolves were placed on the endangered species list and were federally protected….and consequently their populations grew un checked by man. Now we are faced with quite another issue but one directly related to our persecution of the wolf from Colorado's Rocky Mountains – we are now facing an over population of Elk and other ungulates (hoofed animals such as deer and antelope). The current thought is that if we re-introduce wolves to Rocky Mountain National Park that they would help curb the growth of the herds of Elk.
The main reason cited for this call to action is the claim that the Elk herds are stripping the land of food that other species need to survive. The problem that I see with this is that there is no evidence that releasing one alpha predator would have a lasting impact on the population of Elk. I recently read a report that was published in Montana in 2009 and it stated that only when there were two species of alpha predators was there true impact to a population. Read the study here.
Another issue is that nature has a way of balancing itself when left alone, for instance there is an old story about balance in nature that goes something like this:
When you have a rise in rabbit populations shortly there after you would have a rise in coyotes, as the coyote population grows (due to increased food source) the rabbit population would decrease. When the food source is depleted (the rabbits get eaten) then the predators numbers would decline. This goes on and on in a cycle.
You could argue that by removing the wolves years ago we threw a wrench into the situation, and I would agree, but for the over all health of the region I say bring them back, S-L-O-W-L-Y, as in perhaps a 6-8 member pack and let them find the natural balance. The battle begins with those that have been fed scare tactics for the past few decades as well as those ranchers that claim to lose herds due to predation. So what are your thoughts? Bring the wolves back or keep them out of RMNP?
For more information on this hot topic here are a few more articles.