Defenders of Wildlife has an online petition with tens of thousands of signatures collected so far, to stop a plan in Wyoming allowing wolves to be shot on sight in national forests. Yes, you read that correctly, shot on sight in national forests. Where else would wolves be? Strip malls? The petition needs 75,000 signatures and they are about half way to that goal.
The people who have proposed this very dubious, if not outrageous plan must be very unaware wolves contribute about $35 million dollars a year to the Yellowstone economy due to the very large numbers of tourists who visit each year for the chance to see the besieged animals. A University of Montana study generated that large figure, most likely because such research hadn’t been conducted, indicating that many people don’t see wolves as having any value. To the contrary, many ranchers see only as damaging their livestock and therefore a drain on the regional economy, but this view is very far from true.
Wolves provide an additional value to the smaller meat-eating animals in their habitat as well. A different study showed they tend to not finish eating their prey at times, which leaves free meat for coyotes, golden eagles, and other small creatures, and the distribution of the food occurs somewhat evenly throughout the year, which means there is a fairly steady supply of left over food for the smaller animals. Of course, they also contribute to ecosystems by reducing the numbers of herbivores, such as deer and elk. When predators are killed off, these populations can grow unchecked and create problems for the human communities.
The controversy around how the wild wolves should be protected from human society is especially remarkable because it is obscuring the fact that the reintroduction of wild wolves to Yellowstone and the whole region has been a very successful venture.
Image Credit: dobak