NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 8, 2007

Of all the protected and endangered species in the United States, none has provoked stronger feelings than the wolf, whether reviled or revered, says the New York Times.

Many -- particularly in the northern Rockies -- would like to see large numbers of wolves killed as soon as possible, because of the damage they are wreaking:

  • Some officials say that federal protection has resulted in far too many wolves and that delisting is needed to cull the excess.
  • Hunters and state officials throughout the region say the animals are decimating elk herds, and ranchers say they kill too many livestock.
  • Before wolves were reintroduced in January 1995, there were 19,000 elk in Yellowstone Park's northern herd.
  • Those numbers have declined by about 6 percent a year; in December, biologists counted 6,738 elk in that herd during an annual survey.

But others disagree.  "We don't support the delisting at this time," said Jamie Clark, executive vice president of Defenders of Wildlife. "Hunting is fine. But you have to be judicious about where you hunt and when you hunt. Wyoming and Idaho say they are going to kill wolves, but there's no mention of population science or monitoring. Its politics, not science."  She said the group was not ruling out a lawsuit to keep the delisting from going forward.

There's another reason for keeping wolf populations around, says Robbins.  There are plenty of people in the West who love the re-established populations.  People flock to Yellowstone to watch wolves hunt and play in the wild, and one economist estimates that the wolf watchers leave behind $35 million annually.

Source: Jim Robbins, "For Wolves, a Recovery May Not Be the Blessing It Seems," New York Times, February 6, 2007.

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