Wolf reintroduction efforts in the western mountain states has been one of the most controversial and successful reintroduction efforts of any endangered species. The removal of wolves from the endangered species list in numerous states now leaves the management of these wolves in the hands of hunters.
Wolves are found throughout the northern hemisphere and have been a focus of conservation, hunting, trapping and ecological debate for decades. Conservation and animal rights groups have targeted hunters for many years for the near extinction of the species half a century ago, blinded by emotion and missing the true enemies of this conservation effort. Many of these reckless groups haven’t physically participated in the active management of our resources, or in the conservation of the habitat in which these reintroduced wolves call home.
Livestock and beef ranching combined is a 44 billion dollar industry. Currently, they are the only industry to lobby against the reintroduction and management of wolves in the lower 48 states. Ranching on public land takes place on over 250 million acres throughout the country, making the group a powerful stakeholder in land use policy. These public land ranchers continuously clear forest for grazing, build fences, divert streams, and other destructive activities to natural habitat.
This industry has relied heavily on government agencies such as the USDA’s Wildlife Services. In the 1930s, this agency had exterminated more wolves annually in the US than hunting. Their practices are exempt from modern conservation laws and they exterminate packs of wolves over the killing of a single beef calf. Unethical forms of extermination such as chasing down wolves with helicopters and placing poison bait sites throughout wolf ranges are commonplace. USDA’s Wildlife Services spent 1.1 million dollars last year on exterminating wolves in five mountain states to protect the depredation of livestock.
Wolves have proved to be extremely adaptable and are very successful breeders. Idaho for example, has reached a wolf population that is 500% higher than wolf revival goals. This has led to the species being delisted from the endangered species list in that state. Some conservation groups are furious with the delisting but are blind to see that this is a huge success for conservation. The endangered species list was not created to keep a species protected forever, but to re-establish endangered species to a balanced population so they can be taken off the list and managed by state fish and game agencies through hunting and proper management techniques.
The state of Idaho aimed to harvest 369 wolves during the 2014-2015 season. A total of 126 wolves were taken by hunters, demonstrating that the population still has ample opportunity to grow, despite hunting pressure. Wolves are harvested through means of fair chase; no poisoned bait piles, helicopter chases or unethical harvest methods are used. Hunting is a tool of selective and responsible wildlife management, not a weapon of extermination. It is keeping wolf populations in a sustainable ecosystem through the responsible harvest, with wolves’ natural predator–the human hunter–ensuring the future of the outdoors.
The successful reintroduction of wolves is a milestone for modern conservation. Hunters are the most proactive stewards of the land who recognize the importance of each species contribution to Nature’s balance. Like in all quarry, the extermination or extinction of animals–wolves–has no direct benefit to hunters. Wolves prey on the sick, injured, old and weak, leaving the healthy and strong animals to survive and breed. That’s the true benefit to conservation and hunting.
The balance of the wolf population is still at stake. There are still those, like the beef industry, that fight to destroy it, and the reckless miseducation from anti hunting groups does nothing to help preserve the future of our natural resources. We can only hope that people will put aside emotion, and surrender to not just the science of conservation, but the trust of Mother Nature’s balanced food chain that includes the modern hunter.