Wolf reintroduction


Wolf reintroduction

Wolf reintroduction involves the artificial reestablishment of a population of wolves into areas where they had been previously extirpated. Wolf reintroduction is only considered where large tracts of suitable wilderness still exist and where certain prey species are abundant enough to support a predetermined wolf population.

After years of review and discussion, gray wolves were successfully reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and Idaho in the U.S. Currently, wolf reintroduction is being deliberated for a few other locations in the U.S. and also in many European countries. In most cases both now and in the past, the debate pits people in urban and rural areas against one another, with the latter tending to be against predator reintroductions citing concerns for local ranching industries. However, many people have undergone a change in attitude toward wolves and other predators, especially over the past few decades. As a result, wolf reintroduction proponents, incited by a greater awareness of the important ecological niche wolves have as keystone predators, usually represent the majority, which has been the most important factor where wolf reintroduction has already succeeded.

Yellowstone National Park and Idaho

Wolf packs were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and Idaho starting in 1995. These wolves were considered as “experimental, non-essential” populations per article 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Such classification gave government officials greater leeway in dealing with problem wolves, which was considered one of a series of compromises wolf reintroduction proponents made with concerned local ranchers.

Indeed, local industry and environmental groups battled for years over the Yellowstone and Idaho wolf reintroduction effort. The idea of wolf reintroduction was first brought to Congress in 1966 by biologists who were concerned with the critically high elk populations in Yellowstone. Officially, 1926 was the year the last wolves were killed within Yellowstone’s boundaries, and over the succeeding decades, populations of elk and other large prey animals had soared, and new growth vegetation suffered as a result. This is due to ecosystem instability when keystone predators are removed. With wolves being at the top of the food pyramid, their absence let the elk population boom out of control. Soon deciduous woody species such as upland aspen and riparian cottonwood crashed as a result of overgrazing. This effected habitat for other species as well. Moreover, coyotes tried to fill in the niche left by wolves, but were unable to control the large ungulate populations. Booming coyote numbers, furthermore, also had a negative effect on other species, particularly the red fox. Ranchers, though, remained steadfastly opposed to reintroducing a species of animal that they considered to be analogous to a plague, citing the hardships that would ensue with the potential loss of stock caused by wolves. [https://courses.washington.edu/envir100/readings/population/ripple2004.pdf]

The government, which was charged with creating, implementing, and enforcing a compromise, struggled for over two decades to find middle ground. A wolf recovery team was appointed in 1974, and the first official recovery plan was released for public comment in 1982. General public apprehension regarding wolf recovery forced the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to revise their plan to implement more control for local and state governments, so a second recovery plan was released for public comment in 1985. That same year, a poll conducted at Yellowstone National Park showed that 74% of visitors thought wolves would improve the park, while 60% favored reintroducing them. The preparation of an environmental impact statement, the last critical step before reintroduction could be green-lighted, was halted when Congress insisted that further research be done before an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was to be funded. In 1987, in an effort to shift the burden of financial responsibility from ranchers to the proponents of wolf reintroduction, Defenders of Wildlife set up a “wolf compensation fund” that would use donations to pay ranchers market value for any stock that was lost to wolf depredation. That same year, a final recovery plan was released. Following a long period of research, public education, and public commenting, a draft EIS was released for public review in 1993 and it received over 150,000 comments from interested parties. It was finalized in May 1994, and included a clause that specified that all wolves reintroduced to the recovery zones would be classified under the “experimental, non-essential” provision of the ESA. Though the original plan called for three recovery zones – one in Idaho, another in Montana, and a final one in the Greater Yellowstone Area – the Montana recovery zone was eliminated from the final EIS after it had been proven that a small, but breeding population had already established itself in the northwestern part of the state.A pair of lawsuits filed in late 1994 put the whole recovery plan in jeopardy. Interestingly, while one of the lawsuits was filed by the Wyoming Farm Bureau, the other was filed by a coalition of concerned environmental groups.who The latter pointed to unofficial wolf sightings as proof that wolves had already migrated down to Yellowstone from the north, which, they argued, made the plan to reintroduce an experimental population in the same area unlawful. According to their argument, if wolves were already present in Yellowstone, they should rightfully be afforded full protection under the ESA, which, they reasoned, was preferable to the limited “experimental” classification that would be given to any reintroduced wolves. [cite web | title= Defenders of Wildlife| work= A Yellowstone Chronology| url=http://www.defenders.org/wildlife/wolf/ynpchro.html| accessdate=May 3 | accessyear=2006 ] Nevertheless, both cases were thrown out on January 3, 1995. Adolescent members from packs of Mackenzie Valley wolves in Alberta, Canada were tranquilized and carted down to the recovery zones later that week, but a last minute court order delayed the planned releases. The stay came from an appellate court in Denver and was instigated by the Wyoming Farm Bureau. After spending an additional 36 hours in transport cages inside the recovery zones, the wolves were finally released following official judicial sanction. Yellowstone’s wolves stayed in acclimation pens for two more months before being released into the wild. Idaho’s wolves, conversely, were given a hard release. A total of 66 wolves were released to the two areas in this manner in January 1995 and January 1996.Fact|date=February 2007

2005 estimates of wolf populations in the two recovery zones reflect the success the species has had in both areas:
* Greater Yellowstone Area: 325
* Central Idaho: 565

These numbers, added with the estimated number of wolves in northwestern Montana (130), puts the total number of wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains recovery area at over 1000 individuals. This includes approximately 134 packs (two or more wolves traveling together) and 71 breeding pairs (male and female that successfully rear a litter of at least two until Dec. 31). The recovery goal for the area was 30 breeding pairs total, and this number has been surpassed for some time. [cite web | title= USFWS| work= Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery 2005 Interagency Annual Report| url=http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov/annualrpt05/2005_WOLF_REPORT_TOTAL.pdf|accessdate=May 3 | accessyear=2006 ]

Since wolves have been recovered, there have been hundreds of confirmed incidents of livestock depredation, though such predation represents a minute proportion of a wolf’s diet on a per wolf basis. While the majority of wolves ignore livestock entirely, a few rogue wolves or wolf packs will become chronic livestock depredators, and will either be relocated or killed depending on the area and number of incidents. Since the year Defenders of Wildlife implemented their compensation fund, they have allocated over $500,000 to private owners for proven and probable livestock depredation by wolves. Opponents argue that the Yellowstone reintroductions were unnecessary, as American wolves were never in danger of biological extinction. Opponents have stated that wolves are of little commercial benefit, as cost estimates on wolf recovery are from $200,000 to $1 million per wolf. Tourism based on wolves is problematic, as wolves are elusive and very hard to spot; In 1996, less than 0.5% of visitors to Yellowstone ever saw a wolf. Hunters have also cited the possibility of large ungulate population drops in within the park due to wolf predation. National Park Service Biologist Wayne Brewster informed guides and outfitters living north of Yellowstone National Park, to expect a fifty percent (50%) drop in harvestable game when wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park. This was confirmed when in 2006, the Yellowstone elk herd had in fact shrunk to 50% since the mid 1990s. Two thirty day periods of tracking radio collared wolves showed that 77-97% of prey species documented by wolves in the park were elk. Outside the park, numerous hunting outfitters have been run out of buisness due to elk hunting oppurtunities being reduced by 90%.cite book | author = Miniter, Frank |url = | title = The Politically Incorrect Guide to Hunting | year = 2007 | pages = pp.269 | id = ISBN 1596985216] Although Defenders of Wildlife have established a $100,000 compensation program to reimburse ranchers in Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico and Arizona for losses caused by wolves, reintroduction opponents have argued that the program is nothing more than a publicity tool and is inadequate for addressing the problem of livestock loss to wolves, due to the fact that the programme has apparently unrealistic criteria in confirming wolf kills. This can be problematic, as wolves often leave little physical evidence of kills the size of lambs and small calves.cite web| url =http://www.aws.vcn.com/fact.html | title= Fact Sheet- Wolf Reintroduction in the United States | publisher= Abundant Wildlife Society of North America | first = | last= | date = | accessdate = 2008-08-24]

The reintroduction of wolves has reportedly increased biodiversity within Yellowstone National Park. Along with (and partly because of) an increase in new-growth vegetation which has resulted from the reduction in elk numbers, beaver (which had also become extinct from the park) and red fox populations have recovered, probably due to the wolves keeping coyote populations under control. [cite web | title= "Lessons from the Wolf -- Bringing the top predator back to Yellowstone has triggered a cascade of unanticipated changes in the park's ecosystem" | url=http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa006&articleID=00076914-0667-10AA-84B183414B7F0000&pageNumber=3&catID=2 | accessdate=May 24 | accessyear=2006 ]

The Idaho state government opposed the reintroduction of wolves into the state and many citizens feel as if the wolves were forced onto the state by the federal government. Despite residing within state borders, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has managed the wolf population since the reintroduction. The Idaho wolf population has made a remarkable comeback with an estimated 1,200 wolves in the Greater Yellowstone area, 700 of these residing within Idaho’s borders in 2007. However, the wolves have increasingly become nuisances. In order to quell the political battle between the ranchers and conservationists while still ensuring proper management the federal government has agreed to remove the wolf from the Endangered Species list and allow state management of the species if Idaho, Montana and Wyoming all propose management plans that meet the Fish and Wildlife Service’s approval. Currently plans proposed by both Idaho and Montana have been approved by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Wyoming is the only member of the trio who has not authored a plan accepted by the service. Despite being approved by the US Fish and Wildlife Service Idaho’s proposed management plan is still shrouded in controversy. The plan [http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/apps/surveys/draftwolf/wolfpopplan.pdf] proposed by the newly inaugurated governor of Idaho, Clement “Butch” Otter, calls for the killing of 550 wolves, approximately eighty percent of the current population, and a reduction in the number of breeding pairs from 72 to just 10. Otter’s plan is strongly supported by many state residents. According to the US Fish and Wildlife Services guidelines the Idaho wolf population needs to stay above 100 individuals for the species to stay off the endangered species list and remain a viable, self sustaining population. However, there is much evidence that shows that a much larger wolf population can survive in Idaho without causing any major problems.

Wolf 2M, Co-founder of the Leopold Pack was killed on New Year's Eve 2002 by the Geode Pack near Hellroaring Slopes. 2M was the last of the original 14 wolves reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995. [ [http://www.forwolves.org/ralph/deadwolf.htm Yellowstone wolf mortalities-summary ] ]

Arizona

The five last known wild Mexican grey wolves were captured in 1980 in accordance with an agreement between the United States and Mexico intended to save the critically endangered subspecies. Since then, a comprehensive captive breeding program has brought Mexican wolves back from the brink. Currently, there are 300 captive Mexican wolves taking part in the program.

The ultimate goal for these wolves, however, is to reintroduce them to areas of their former range. In March 1998, this reintroduction campaign began with the releasing of three packs into the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Today, there may be up to 50 wild Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico. The final goal for Mexican wolf recovery is a wild, self-sustaining population of at least 100 individuals. [cite web | title= USFWS| work= Mexican Grey Wolf Fact Sheet| url= http://www.fws.gov/ifw2es/mexicanwolf/pdf/MexicanWolfFactSheet2006.pdf | accessdate=May 4 | accessyear=2006 ]

candinavia

In Sweden and Norway, there has been a long and ongoing conflict between some groups whose belief it is that wolves no longer have a place in nature and those who wish the wolf to be allowed to expand out into more of the area’s vast boreal forests. The former mostly consists of members of the rural working class who fear competition for certain large ungulate species (Roe Deer, moose, etc.), and who consider the wolf to be a foreign element. They argue that modern Scandinavian wolves are actually recent migrants from Russia and not the remnants of old native wolf packs, which, they reason, is why they don’t belong in Sweden and Norway. Recent DNA research seems to support this claim.

Scandinavian wolves had been nearly completely eliminated from the range due to extirpation campaigns in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and were considered to be gone from the area by the 1960s. In the early 1980s, however, a single breeding pack was discovered in southern Sweden, over 1000 km away from the nearest known population in Russia or Eastern Finland. The pack was small – about ten animals – and it stayed that way for many years until its population began to noticeably increase starting in 1991. Prior to 1991, the small population lacked ideal genetic diversity, and inbreeding had been occurring to a potentially dangerous degree. Furthermore, low birth rates suggest that the wolves were apprehensive to mate with each other, which was most likely due to their close relation. Genetic data suggests that, in 1991, a lone immigrant wolf from Russia migrated to the area and single-handedly restored genetic diversity to the population. A particular study showed that of the 72 wolves born between 1993 and 2001, 68 of them could trace their genetic heritage to this lone migrant wolf. Today, there are over one hundred individuals that range across this southern area of Scandinavia. [cite web | title= ‘’Nature’’ | work= Conservation biology: Lone wolf to the rescue | url= http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v420/n6915/full/420472a.html| accessdate=May 4 | accessyear=2006 ] The population remains genetically isolated, however, which is a cause of concern for some. On the other hand, there is reason to believe that as the number of wolves living in this area increases, the boundaries of the population's range will creep towards the ranges of other, separate populations in Finland, thus promoting dispersal. Direct reintroduction remains an intriguing option to foster genetic diversity in the Scandinavian population in the meantime.

There has been much speculation as to how the original population came to be in the early 80s. Some believe that they might be a native species – remnants of a population that somehow survived persecution. Much genetic research has been performed on this population, however, and this particular theory isn’t supported by the findings. Genetic analysis seems to support the idea that the wolves were immigrants that had traveled over 1000 km from Russia to southern Scandinavia along one of several possible dispersal routes. Certain conspiracy theorists believe that they were artificially reintroduced per some secret agenda by the Swedish government. [cite web | title= ‘’Wildlife Biology’’| work= The origin of the southern Scandinavian wolf ‘’Canis Lupus’’ population | url=http://www.wildlifebiology.com/2005/4/linnell.pdf | accessdate=May 4 | accessyear=2006 ]

Since the wolves have reestablished themselves, Norwegian and Swedish farmers have complained of sheep and dog depredation. Indeed, many farmers in Norway were forced to give up their practice once local wolves discovered sheep as potential prey. This exemplifies the general trend that the people who are usually the most skeptical about wolf recovery, though they typically represent the minority, are also the ones most directly affected by it. Most of the proponents of wolf reintroduction in Norway and Sweden can be found in urban populations, which is a pattern that can be seen wherever wolf reintroduction is a hot button issueFact|date=February 2007. As a result, some are calling for the legalization of hunting wolves in this area. European Union regulation doesn't make this an option in SwedenFact|date=February 2007. However, government action could be taken to cull wolf populations if either of the two countries involved should sanction such action.

Central and Western Europe

In several areas in Europe, reintroduction of wolves to areas where they have become extinct is being actively considered. Charities in many European countries including Denmark, Germany, Italy and Scotland [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6310211.stm Wild wolves 'good for ecosystems'] ] are also advocating the reintroduction of wolves to specific rural and forested areas. Most plans have been met with a mixture of enthusiasm and unease by different population groups. Proponents argue reintroduction would benefit tourism and ecological diversitycite web | title = Would you support the reintroduction of the wolf into Ireland | author = jaedi | date=2008-08-17 | url = http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=238216&postid=56935829 | accessdate=2008-08-23] cite web | title = Natural environment, Farmers & their lobby, reintroduction of exinct species | author = jaedi | date=2008-08-19 | id = 56955956 | url = http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=238216&postid=56955956 | accessdate=2008-08-23] while opponents fear the loss of livestock that may result from their reintroduction. In several countries, charity based compensation plans (similar to those that operate in the USA) have been proposed. [cite web | title= ‘’Wolf Trust: understanding of wolves & natural heritage of Scottish Highlands’’| url=http://www.wolftrust.org.uk/index.html | accessdate=May 24 | accessyear=2006 ] .

References

*

External links

* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6310211.stm BBC: Wild wolves 'good for ecosystems']

[ja:オオカミの再導入] ^^


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