Wolves creating more headachesNothing the National Park Service (NPS) proposes ever surprises me, and neither did this latest article published in the February issue of BioScience magazine, which NPS researchers foster reintroducing wolves at many sites across the country.
Nothing the National Park Service (NPS) proposes ever surprises me, and neither did this latest article published in the February issue of BioScience magazine, which NPS researchers foster reintroducing wolves at many sites across the country.
Dan Licht, NPS biologist for the Northern Plains Region led a team of five researchers who authored the paper published in BioScience. He is quoted by the Associated Press as saying, “If there’s lots of food, they’re happy … an intensively managed dozen, ten (wolves) — we think that is doable with today’s technology.”
Licht predicts that wolves could become “stewards” in keeping game numbers down in areas as small as 15 square miles, apparently dismissing the reality that wolves range over hundreds of square miles and are impossible to contain to such a small area. This hare-brained scheme is in response to overpopulation of deer and elk in many national parks.
A more reasonable solution is to set aside the NPS phobia about hunting, then sell hunting licenses and allow limited numbers of hunters to reduce deer and elk populations in national parks where needed. That has been the design of the North American Model of Wildlife Management for more than a century, but the rationality of it still escapes most NPS administrators and biologists.
The last I learned, NPS still is dragging its feet in allowing hunting in Theodore National Park in western North Dakota where an elk herd of almost 1,000 animals needs to be reduced. Instead, NPS is leaning toward “volunteer shooters,” rather than hunters, to do the job.
Similarly, at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado NPS last year enlisted paid and volunteer shooters to kill 33 elk. No plans thus far to allow the license-buying public to hunt within the hallowed boundaries of the park.
Wolves have been a controversy ever since they were re-introduced into Yellowstone National Park and the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho in the mid-1990s. Some 1,650 wolves roam the country in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho — even after federal wildlife agents and landowners defending their livestock killed about 1,200 since 1995. (I have described in a previous column how wolves have essentially eliminated the late season Gardiner hunt in Montana, and have reduced big game populations wherever they have spread.)
Ed Bangs, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologist who has lead the Northern Rockies wolf restoration program since its inception said it best: “Wolves fix very few problems compared to the ones they create.”
Currently, the states of Idaho and Utah want wolves to disappear. One lawmaker in Utah, for example, has said he wants the wolves removed by the federal government. The State of Wyoming has not been receptive to establishment of wolf populations but is relatively powerless to buck the federal government.
The State of Montana held a wolf hunting season last year where 70-plus wolves were taken by licensed hunters, but the state is bracing for a decision this spring by District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula who has given every indication that he is ready to shut down any future wolf hunting.
On a brighter note, gaining public acceptance to willy-nilly wolf reintroductions in national parks and on other public lands, designed to replace hunters, faces enormous disproval from the public. Licht tells the AP that the idea needs a few years to germinate. “Right now we’re starting the dialogue,” he told the AP.
Let’s hope dialogue is as far as this brainless idea goes.