Wolves in Yellowstone Wolves used to roam all over North America. As the population grew wolves and human interactions increased. People began to kill wolves. In 1914 the federal government started funding the elimination of all predators from federal lands. By 1940 almost all the wolves in the lower 48 states were killed. By 1967 the timber wolf subspecies Canis lupus lycaon, was listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966 (32 Federal Register 4001).
After the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) was passed, the Secretary of the Interior also listed the northern rocky Mountain subspecies, C 1. Irremotus, and the Texas subspecies, C. 1. Monstrabilis, as endangered. In 1978 the Secretary designated the Minnesota population of wolves as threatened and all other North American gray wolf populations south of Canada as endangered. In 1975, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) assigned the Northern Rocky Mountain Recovery Team to develop an idea to provide for regional recovery and delisting of the gray wolf.
Three areas had habitat characteristics appropriate to support wolf populations; northwestern Montana, central Idaho, and Yellowstone National Park were these areas. The Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Plan, was approved in 1987. It recommended that each of the recovery areas must me able to maintain a least 10 breeding pairs of wolves for three straight years in order for FWS to think about delisting wolves in these regions. These wolves would produce approximately 300 wolves. The plan also advocated natural recovery. Natural recovery is when the wolf immigrate from Canada.
The immigration would happen in Montana and Idaho while re introduction would be used in Yellowstone. The Interior Appropriations Conference Committee set aside $200, 000 for the National Park Service (NPS) and FWS to study the wolves. They studied whether the wolves could be controlled within or outside of Yellowstone, how the wolf would affect the grizzly bears in Yellowstone, how the wolf would affect the prey base and big game hunting in the Yellowstone region, and the definition of wolf management zone boundaries. Since 1989 the Interior Appropriations Acts have given out amounts ranging from nothing to $498, 000 for the re introduction of wolves into Yellowstone and central Idaho. Most of the money came with strings attached. Congress limited the National Park Service on the money used to study the wolf without an official environmental impact statement.
In 1990 Congress appointed a wolf Management Committee, comprised of three federal, three state, and four interest group representatives, to come up with a plan for restoring the wolf to Yellowstone and central Idaho. In 1991 Congress asked the NPS, FWS, and the U. S. Forest Service to devise a plan of alternatives on the wolf restoration in Yellowstone and central Idaho. The states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, Animal Damage Control, and the Wind River and Nez Perce Tribes participated in the procedure. The FWS supported the alternative calling for the re introduction of gray wolves to Yellowstone and central Idaho, as experimental populations.
There were four other alternatives considered. They were: (1) natural recovery; (2) no wolf; (3) wolf management committee (state management); (4) re introduction of wolves that do not have experimental population status. Natural recovery would have encouraged wolves to migrate from Canada to northwest Montana and to continue to Yellowstone and central Idaho. The no wolf alternative would have prevented wolf recovery by removing wolves from all protections under the ESA in Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. It also would have removed all funding for the education management, research, and control in the northern Rocky Mountains. By reintroducing the wolves as an experimental population the FWS has more flexibility in managing the wolves.
Wolves in an experimental population are considered threatened rather then endangered. If the wolf was to be considered endangered more and stricter provisions exist on the wolf. People in the community have more rights if a species is considered threatened. Ranchers are allowed to harass wolves attacking their livestock. Ranchers may also be granted a permit to kill wolves that repeatedly kill their livestock. Wolf activist were opposed to this designation of threatened.
They claimed that this would give to much liberty to ranchers. In 1994 the wolf plan was approved by Congress Wolves would be transported from Canada to Yellowstone. They would be considered an experimental population designated as a threatened species. Before the wolves were to be released objections rose up within the public. In December of 1994 the American Farm Bureau Federation, Farm Bureaus in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, and Mountain States Legal Foundation sued the Department of the Interior to prevent the FWS from reintroducing wolves into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho. In January of 1995, the District Court in Cheyenne, Wyoming denied their request and allowed the wolves to be released.
After the court denied the suit the re introduction of the wolves was to be accomplished. In January 1995, 29 wolves were captured in Canada. Of these wolves 15 of them were released into central Idaho. The other 14 were put into acclimation pens for a few months and then released into the Yellowstone area. One year later 37 wolves were captured in Canada and moved to the same re introduction sites. 20 were released into Idaho and the other 17 were put into acclimation pens for several weeks and then released into Yellowstone.
In September of 1996, 10 wolf pups from northern Montana were caught and moved to the Yellowstone area. As a result of repeated depredation of livestock from these wolves authorities have been forced to kill many of the wolves. The FWS has released a total of 41 wolves into the Yellowstone area and 35 wolves into central Idaho. Management of the wolves has been a responsibility of the Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho with funding coming from the FWS.
The wolf re introduction has been a complete success in terms of the wolf population. It has been so successful in fact, that the Secretary of the Interior canceled further re introduction s into the northern Rocky Mountains. The population has increased in each of the wolf recovery sites. The Yellowstone population approaches 100 wolves and the central Idaho has grown to about 70 wolves.
In northwest Montana where the wolves migrated from Canada the population is estimated to be between 100-120 wolves. The recovery goals were met and exceeded the expectations of the FWS. This program also was accomplished under budget. The wolves themselves have been very successful. Their population has increased with the rate of morality being lower than expected.
The wolf activist have also achieved their goals in reintroducing the wolves. The losers of the wolf recovery program have been the livestock owners. Wolves being carnivores have to kill to eat. Slow moving livestock are an easy kill for a hungry wolf. In spite of the ranchers concern research has confirmed that the wolves have remained primarily within the re introduction regions and have mostly fed on native deer and elk. To make the ranchers happier about the wolves the Defenders of Wildlife established the Wolf Compensation Trust.
This trust has $100, 000 in it in which the money was raised mostly through private contributions. In the last 10 years a total of $29, 456 have paid 34 ranchers for 57 cattle and 51 sheep killed by the wolves. The wolf recovery program has been very successful. Only a few organizations have had problems with the recovery of the wolf. The American Farm Bureau Federation, and Wyoming couple sued the FWS in 1997. U.
S. District judge William Downes who presided over the case ruled that the wolf recovery program was illegal. This ruling could mean that all the wolves in Yellowstone and central Idaho will be terminated or removed. This ruling is still being fought over. People who believe in the termination of the wolf have been very active in the past year. More then 10 wolves have been killed illegally.
It was thought that 1 person killed all the wolves, but after further investigation it was found that different people killed each wolf. The wolves are in an unstable situation right now where either they could be killed or they could live and grow. I hope they live. They have not caused too many problems for anyone including the ranchers who get money back if a wolf kills their livestock. I believe the wolf should be allowed to live.