Free Term Paper on Wild Animal Reintroduction

To prevent wolves from becoming extinct, the National Park Service has reintroduced them on park lands. Nearby ranchers protested this, claiming the wolves prey on their herds. Environmentalists claim ranchers killed some of the wolves. Grizzly bears may be reintroduced in national parks next.

Outline

I. Introduction

II. What Is a Wolf Pack?

III. The Reintroduction Program

IV. Ranchers’ Resistance to Wolf Reintroduction

V. The Role of States

VI. Conclusion

I. Introduction

Wolf PackOne of the biggest reasons for the reintroduction of wolves back into Yellowstone was that this was part of their original habitat. Wolves had originally roamed from Yellowstone all the way down to Mexico. While many environmentalists and wildlife agencies were in favor of the reintroduction of the wolves, many other groups were against it. The main people who were against the reintroduction of the wolves were the ranchers who made a living in the areas surrounding the park. During its 70 years of absence from the Rockies, the grey wolf had been protected under the Endangered Species Act, which was passed in 1973. Therefore, a person could be punished with up to a $100,000 fi ne and up to one year in jail for killing a wolf. Back in the 1850s, there was a major population increase of the wolves in the United States, stemming from the westward movement of settlers. These settlers killed more than 80 million bison, and the wolves started to scavenge on the carcasses left behind. By the 1880s, most of the bison were gone, so the wolves had to change food sources. This meant that they turned their attention to domestic livestock, causing farmers and ranchers to develop bounties and other vermin-eradication efforts. Owing to the lack of a food source as well as the bounties being offered, the wolf population plummeted in the lower 48 states.

When the numbers in an animal population become low, the genetic diversity of that species decreases dramatically, which can hasten the species’ extinction. One of the premises of governmental intervention in these environmental controversies around species reintroduction is to prevent extinction. An important aspect of this is gene pool diversity. This requires active animal management by humans, including an in-depth knowledge of the genes of specific animals and packs. One aspect of this controversy is the need for more scientific monitoring of animals facing extinction.

When the wolf population dropped, there was still a safe place. That was Yellowstone National Park, established in 1872. In 1916 the National Park Service started to eliminate all predators in Yellowstone National Park, which meant killing 136 wolves, 13,000 coyotes, and every single mountain lion. By 1939, this program was shut down, but all the wolves were dead.

II. What Is a Wolf Pack?

A wolf pack is very hierarchical and organized. Dominance and submission establish the order of power in the pack. A pack consists of an alpha male, an alpha female, and their descendants. The alpha pair are the only two that breed. The natural pattern of breeding within a wolf pack works to protect their genetic diversity if populations are healthy.

III. The Reintroduction Program

In January 1995, some 14 wolves from many separate packs were captured in Canada and brought into Yellowstone Park. The next step in their reintroduction was to place them in one-acre acclimation pens. Capturing wolves from different packs helped protect their genetic diversity. Biologists then created packs from these captured wolves.

While in captivity, the wolves were fed large amounts of meat in the form of roadkill or winter carrion from the area. This often consisted of deer, elk, and smaller animals. Each pack was fed once every 7 to 10 days, which is how frequently they eat in the wild. A small wolf pack of six in the wild will consume on average 800 pounds of meat per month. In Yellowstone National Park, that would average out to two adult elk and maybe a small deer per small pack per month. Today, 90 percent of all wolf kills are elk; the other 10 percent consist of bison, deer, moose, and other small game.

IV. Ranchers’ Resistance to Wolf Reintroduction

In the West, ranchers control large tracts of land. Sometimes they own the land outright, and sometimes the land is leased from the U.S. government. The ranchers’ concerns are basic. The wolf is a predatory animal that finds the easiest type of food source available. An animal that has been domesticated and no longer has natural predators is very easy prey.

From 1995 to 1998, for example, 9 head of cattle and 132 sheep were killed by wolves. The wolves that killed the livestock were mainly traveling from Canada to Yellowstone, across Montana. Defenders of Wildlife, an organization dedicated to wildlife preservation (including predator preservation), has worked to compensate ranchers financially for cattle and sheep lost to wolves. Many environmentalists fear that ranchers will kill off all of the newly introduced wolves. Only a small number of wolves have died legally, while many more have died of unknown causes. The reintroduction of the wolf has caused many problems, ranging from lawsuits to loss of livestock. The two lawsuits that have been filed contended that it was unconstitutional to reintroduce the wolves into the park. The judge who was looking over these lawsuits said that the wolves needed to be returned to Canada, but Canada did not want them. Then the judge said that all the introduced wolves were to be sent to a zoo, but no zoo had room for them. Finally the judge said all of the introduced wolves needed to be destroyed, but the environmentalists protested. In the end, nothing was done.

V. The Role of States

As of 2009, the population of the wolf was 98 individuals in 12 packs, the recovery goal of 10 breeding pairs having been met a decade earlier (2000). This means that the states are now trying to get the wolf off the endangered species list and under state control. Back around 1998, all of the states (Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana) started to make plans for how they were going to manage the wolf populations in their states. Each plan was then reviewed by wolf specialists and depredation specialists to see what they thought of the plans. Each state had its plans finished by 2002. Wyoming was the first to send its plan to be reviewed by the U.S. Congress. The other two states waited to see what would come of Wyoming’s plan before they sent theirs in. In 2003 the Wyoming Grey Wolf Management Plan was sent back to the state, saying that it would not work. Most people probably felt the plan did not go through because Wyoming was planning on managing the wolves as if they were a predator species. This meant that the wolves could be hunted freely as long as they were off national forest or national park property and on private property. Many environmentalists did not want this, since they felt this was the reason all the wolves had been lost in the first place. The Montana and Idaho plans were different from Wyoming’s. These states were planning on putting a trophy hunting season out on the wolf. At present, Wyoming has not made any changes to its plan, even though Congress wants them to change it to better manage the wolf population. Wyoming intends to take this matter to the courts.

VI. Conclusion

This is a highly controversial topic at the local level that will continue to be debated in courts, legislatures, and federal agencies. As more species become endangered and protected, successful reintroduction programs around national parks and other federal lands will be initiated. The debate in this controversy may move to legislatures. As federal and state wildlife and park agencies seek more funding for reintroduction programs, others will seek to prevent this. Ranchers and others in surrounding communities will continue to resist the siting of dangerous animals among them. These very communities have often benefited from the presence of nearby national parks as well as long-term grazing leases from the federal government at very favorable rates.

 

Robert William Collin

 

Bibliography:

  1. Lowry, William R., Repairing Paradise: The Restoration of America’s National Parks. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2009.
  2. Maehr, David S., et al., eds., Large Mammal Restoration: Ecological and Sociological Consideration in the 21st Century. Washington, DC: Island Press, 2001.
  3. Smith, Douglas, and Gary Ferguson, Decade of the Wolf: Returning the Wild to Yellowstone. Guilford, CT: Lyons Press, 2005.
  4. Urbiqkit, Cat, Yellowstone Wolves: A Chronicle of the Animal, the People, and the Politics. Granville, OH: McDonald & Woodward, 2008.