Wolf Conservation in the US/ Canada

Here is an article version of my argumentative essay for wolf conservation; enjoy!

Also, here is a petition to help save the wolves in B.C., Canada. The petition to put wolves back on the endangered species list in the U.S. has been a success on change.org!

The pictures I will use are from the Wolf Conservation Center in NYS.

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The gray wolf is a beautiful symbol of our nation’s history. After almost being driven to extinction, the federal government finally reintroduced them to some of their native lands and protected them until 2011. This was when the gray wolf was officially removed from the list of protected species in the United States. Although the population of wolves has increased abundantly since the 1990’s, they need to be protected once again with the Endangered Species Act.

Wolves should be reintroduced to more parts of the United States to help wildlife to recover from human encroachment. After being hunted to near extinction by 1945, the Endangered Species Act placed them under protection in the 1970’s. Then in 1995 gray wolves were reintroduced, experimentally, into Yellowstone National Park. The results far surpassed expectations. It was shown in a 2001 study by the Ecological Society of America that with the wolves absent for 70 years, the deer, moose, and elk populations had increased by up to five times their regular rate and reduced the vegetation to nearly nothing. After the wolves returned, they caused a transformation in the ecosystem. Because the elk and other prey of the wolves now had predators, they avoided areas such as valleys and gorges since they could be easily hunted in those areas. With them gone, it was shown that in some areas the heights of the trees quadrupled in just six years. With these areas rejuvenating in foliage once again, migratory and song birds returned along with other species such as beavers.

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After the wolves returned, they were able not only transform the ecosystem, but also the physical geography of the park. The wolves were also able to change the behavior of rivers. Since they had a trickle-down effect on the regeneration of the forests, this caused the banks of rivers to be stabilized by tree roots and caused them to collapse less often. This further caused the rivers to become more fixed in their course. As a forest ranger who tracks wolves stated, “gray wolves and elk have been coexisting for 10,000 years. The problems really stem from people, who are contributing to the habitat degradation and forest fire suppression.” Studies show that wolves play vital roles in maintaining healthy ecosystems. Therefore, wolves are able to cause once barren lands to come back to life and this method could be used in other areas of the United States and North America to balance the ecosystem where they once roamed wild.

Gray wolves are responsible for protecting deer and elk from disease. A major threat to elk and deer in the west is Chronic Waste Disease. According to studies by the Ecological Society of America, when wolves are around, elk and deer congregate in smaller numbers which helps reduce the transmission of illnesses. Wolves also help by reducing the lifespan of these sick animals which also limits the time that they have to spread infections. Wolves are not only predators, but they are protectors as well.

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These wolves are needed to help protect scavenger species against the effects of climate change. A UC Berkeley study in 2005 in Yellowstone showed that milder winters, caused by climate change, have led to fewer elk deaths. This ends up leaving scavengers such as coyotes, ravens, and wolverines scrambling for food. However, this issue was far less widespread in areas where wolves were present to hunt elk. Therefore, in areas where wolves are able to hunt elk, scavenger species are less effected by climate change in regards to food supply.

Wolves are needed for biodiversity. They are able to create niches for other species. Based upon research by the Predator Defense Organization, the wolves are responsible for a trophic cascade which is an ecological process that starts at the top of the food chain and trickles down to the bottom. Since the wolves were able to bring back birds and beavers as stated above, they were further able to cause the return of even more species. Since the beavers returned were making dams, there are now habitats for otters, muskrats, fish, reptiles, and amphibians to thrive. The wolves also killed coyotes which caused an increase in the populations of rabbits and mice which further caused and increase in hawks, weasels, badgers, and foxes. The carrion left over from the wolves’ hunts also attracted many species and allows them to thrive. These include ravens, mink, wolverines, great grey owls, 445 species of beetle, lynx, cougar, bald eagles, and grizzly bears. The grizzly bear population was also able to increase because of the new, recovering abundance of berries due to the wolves’ return. Because of one majestic predator returning, the gray wolf, a domino effect of multiple categories of other species returned as well.

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Unfortunately, states are only concerned about their profits and not the actual effects they have on these animals’ lives. There should not have been a shift from the federal to state control over the lives of these animals. After gray wolves were removed from the list of protected species under the Endangered Species Act, the fate of the wolves went to states’ decisions which are ruled by politics and money. In many states there is now open wolf hunting and trapping which has caused many wolves to be slaughtered. There is a very large conflict of interest because the wildlife organizations receive much of there profits from the distribution of hunting licenses, tags, and equipment. Therefore, these organizations do not want hunters to be under the impression that the elk that they wish to hunt are being depleted in numbers by wolves, leading them to allow the massacre of the beautiful animal. Since the gray wolves were removed from the Endangered Species Act under President Obama in April of 2011, over 3,480 wolves have been slaughtered by sport hunters and trappers in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Michigan wolves as well which area a main aspect of tourism at Yellowstone National Park. Out of these kills, 1,141 occurred just during the 2012-13 season. This also does not include the amount of wolves that have been killed deliberately by federal and state predator control programs. An example of the wolves being senselessly killed in the management of state wildlife agencies is proven by the state of Wyoming where wolves are bing poisoned and shot on sight. Some states and organizations attempt to control the populations of wolves because they are afraid of the animals killing livestock. Unfortunately this deals with a very vicious cycle caused by hunting them in the first place. Wolves are extremely social animals and each member of the pack has a specific task that they carry out and this is vital to their ability to hunt large game such as elk and moose. However, when many members or even an individual of the pack is killed unexpectedly, their entire system is messed up. When the numbers of the pack are depleted, they are not as strong and therefore not able to take on large prey. This is what eventually may cause them to desperately seek easier targets which could include livestock. In Montana and Idaho, hunting and trapping seasons are also now targeting wolves. It was shown by the Predator Defense that Montana is targeting to kill 50% of their gray wolf population and Idaho is killing up to 80% of their wolf population. This proves that the states are not concerned with the lives of the animals and are focused on the profits from distributing licenses for hunting and trapping the wolves.

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Wolves are critical to the tourism of Yellowstone National Park. Wolf tourism is an economic source of profit. Based upon a visitor survey in 2005, the percentage of visitors that consider wolves to be one of the top species that they would like to see rose 28.5% since 1991. The restoration of wolves in Yellowstone has cost about $30 million in taxpayer dollars but it’s brought in $35.5 million in annual net profit to the area surrounding the park.

Despite having payed millions of dollars for wolf restoration, the gray wolf has been removed from the list of species protected under the Endangered Species Act. They are now being slaughtered despite their numerous economic and ecological benefits With over 3,000 wolves having been killed deliberately and for sport since 2011, they need to be protected once again.

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Sources:

Agnos, S., & Agnos, C. (Eds.). (2014, February 11). How Wolves Change Rivers.

Berger, J., Stacy, P., Bellis, L., & Johnson, M. (2001, January 1). A Mammalian Predator-Prey Imbalance: Grizzly Bear and Wolf Extinction Affect Avian Neotropical Migrants

Duffield, J., Neher, C., & Patterson, D. (2006, September 1). Wolves and People in Yellowstone: Impacts on the Regional Economy

Oatman, M., & Butler, K. (2011, January 1). 10 Reasons We Need Wolves

Wilmers, C., Crabtree, R., Smith, D., Murphey, K., & Getz, W. (2003) Trophic Facilitation by Introduced Top Predators: Grey Wolf Subsides to Scavengers in Yellowstone National Park. The Journal of Animal Ecology, 76(6), 909-916.

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