Wolves have been extinct in some local areas in the United States, a condition also known as extirpation. These are the red and gray wolves, in particular. More than decades ago, wildlife managers started to reintroduce wolves to Yellowstone National Park and Idaho. Prior to this, Mexican gray wolves have also been brought back from extinction. An agreement between the United States and Mexico was instrumental to this development.
Despite the good intentions of conservationists and advocates, there are also people from different sectors who vehemently oppose the recovery programs of these carnivorous animals. There is still an ongoing debate if the bringing back of these wolves in the wilderness is necessary. The views of people are divided and it is best to have a broader understanding of this issue and what they have to say can help in determining which side is worth considering.
What Is Wolf Reintroduction?
This is a program to reintroduce wolves in their natural habitat like forests and national parks. Reintroduction of wolves will only be done in areas where there is enough space for endangered wolves to populate and sustain themselves.
With the agreement entered between the U.S. and Mexico, three packs of Mexican wolves were reintroduced into the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest located in Arizona and in New Mexico. These wolves were from a program started to capture and breed almost extinct subspecies which was between the years 1982 and 1998. Meanwhile, packs were also brought into the Yellowstone National Park in another wolf reintroduction attempt. Although a different subspecies of wolves, the Northern Rocky Mountains wolf, were living in those areas, the packs which were reintroduced belonged to the Mackenzie Valley wolf species.
Where Did The Idea Of This Program Come From?
In 1966, biologists have noticed an impending problem on the growing population of elks in Yellowstone since the extinction of wolves in the area. This resulted to an imbalance in the ecosystem and overgrazing on vegetation.
Despite the good intentions of conservationists and advocates, there are also people from different sectors who vehemently oppose the recovery programs of these carnivorous animals. There was apprehension from some groups while others find the recovery program necessary for local economy and tourism.
Thus, the debate whether the bringing back of these wolves in the wilderness is necessary or not is still ongoing. The views of people are divided and it is best to have a broader understanding of this issue and what they have to say can help in determining which side is worth considering.
List of the Pros of Wolf Reintroduction
1. It is a great way to bring back balance in the local ecosystem.
Since wolves were eradicated in the Yellowstone National Park, the populations of elks and deer rose dramatically over the years. The negative effect was felt when the area was overpopulated by herds of elks which grazed on the meadows in order to survive. Due to overgrazing, forests were denuded and vegetation was eaten up. With the recovery program, there will balance again since these wolves are predators of elks and bringing them back will reduce overpopulation.
2. It is good for ecotourism.
Proponents of wolf reintroduction posit that bringing back wolves will encourage more tourists to come visit these areas. With more visitors and tourists flocking National Parks, income will be coming in for the local government and this can be used as funds to maintain forests and take care of other species living in these areas.
3. Wolves can be controlled to keep them from preying livestock.
On the issue of wolves being predators, supporters claim that with technology and science, this can be minimized, if not totally controlled. Nowadays, people overseeing the program can have GPS devices attached to wolves to monitor their movements and keep them from hunting sheep and other farm animals. Also, contraception and surgery can be done to control the population. As for enclosure, fences can be built for protection of people as well as other animals.
4. It helps in re-vegetation and the bird population.
Supporters of wolf reintroduction also point out the importance of these species in reforestation and providing food and shelter to birds which rely on trees, shrubs and grass in order to survive and increase it population.
5. Coyotes, bears, fox and diseases account for more livestock damage.
Advocates for wolf reintroduction contend that there are more cattle deaths related to attacks of coyotes and other animals other than wolves. With the benefits of bringing back these wolves into the forest, the issue on predation should not be considered the concern, according to supporters.
List of Cons of Wolf Reintroduction
1. It can harm livelihood.
Opponents of the program, including ranchers and livestock raisers, are concerned the loss of their livelihood with the presence of wolves. Even the hunters are not in favor of wolf reintroduction since the population of deer will be divided between them and the wolves. Farmers and ranchers fear that these wolves will attack the sheep and other animals in their lands.
2. There are already wolves in these areas.
Some conservationists also oppose the wolf recovery program because they say that there are already wolves that have migrated and their number is already enough to keep them from extinction. For them, reintroducing wolves further is unnecessary.
3. This is an expense using taxpayer’s money.
Some critics express their views about taxpayers having to spend for wolf reintroduction. Figures show that it costs between $200,000 to $1 million dollars to reintroduce a wolf back to the natural habitat and this is not practical. They also argue that ranchers are to be compensated for the loss of their sheep from wolf attacks and this can also be expensive.
There is no doubt wolves are significant to balance the ecosystem and tourism. However, the controversy will never end because there will be ranchers and other groups who find wolf reintroduction a problem. For some biologists, they are significant to restoration of the ecosystem and their presence is good for the environment. The widely debated issue of bringing back wolves to their former ranges should be taken seriously and both parties should dig deeper into the considerations needed to be made to achieve a consensus that is beneficial to the wolves and mankind.