On our trip around Wyoming last month, we saw all sorts of wildlife, including grizzly bears, black bears and wolves. But we didn’t see any moose. That was disheartening for me. I know moose have been having a tough time in that area lately, due to a number of factors. They’re being hit hard by diseases, parasites, drought, tough winters, and predators. No single cause is completely to blame, but taken together, all these factors have put a serious dent on what used to be the biggest moose population in the state.
As we approached Yellowstone, we saw more and more billboards put up by wolf advocates pleading for wolves to be returned to the Endangered Species List. There are several groups who would like to see protections returned to these apex predators to ensure their continued survival. But returning the wolves to the Endangered Species List will actually have a negative impact on them.
There are a number of reasons for this. First and foremost, the longer they’re federally protected, the more they’ll be resented by the people who live where they’ve been reintroduced. Wolf survival depends on a positive – or at least a grudging neutral – relationship with the landowners. That’s not going to happen as long as the Feds tell us what we can and can’t do with them.
And biologists have found that the hunting pressure has caused the wolves to reproduce at higher rates than they did before hunting was allowed. More than just the alpha pair are breeding in many packs, meaning they’re increasing their genetic diversity and growing their populations faster than they normally would. They’re already far above the target population, and their numbers are still increasing.
So I think Wyoming is doing a fine job of managing wolves. They’re prospering, and hunters can still participate in their management. It’s a win-win. Let’s keep it that way.