FACT SHEET - WOLF REINTRODUCTION IN THE UNITED
By T. R. Mader, Research Director
Dog killed by a wolf. Note: Dog is still on its chain.
Northern Minnesota has documented wolves coming into towns to kill dogs.
After their success at forcing wolf recovery in Yellowstone National
Park, special interest groups are proposing the reintroduction of
wolves in various regions of the United States (U.S.). Based on
extensive research, we oppose transplanting wolves in the U.S. for the
1. Wolves are not biologically in danger of extinction and should be
removed from the Endangered Species Act (ESA). There are 1,500 to
2,000 wolves in Minnesota, 6,000 to 10,000 in Alaska and 40,000 to
50,000 wolves in Canada, according to the biologists. They are
certainly not in danger of extinction.
The ESA has two provisions for listing a species as "endangered."
One is a species in danger of actual extinction, and two, a species
can be placed on the Act if it has lost a considerable amount of its
The wolf is listed "endangered" for the second reason since it
inhabited most of the U.S. However, wolves have not ever been in
danger of biological extinction.
ESA protection of the wolf will assist in land lock-up as advocated
by special interest groups. Certain groups favor large areas of land
to be designated as wilderness which eliminates virtually all
multiple use of land. There is organized opposition to hunting and
trapping. Wolf recovery could be used to further these agendas.
Note: The penalty for killing an endangered wolf, even in the
protection of ones' livelihood, is $100,000 and a mandatory prison
2. Wolf recovery will be very costly, and a constant on-going expense
for federal and state governments as well as placing hardship on
individuals who live near recovery areas. In Yellowstone, cost
estimates on wolf recovery are from $200,000 to 1 million per wolf.
Furthermore, little, if any, actual benefit is gained from wolves
being in the region. For example:
A. Very few people will see a wolf. Wolves are very shy, elusive
and nocturnal by nature. Yellowstone Park officials have praised
the numerous sightings. However, in relation to total numbers of
visitors to Yellowstone in 1996, less than .005 ever saw a wolf
in 1996. If wolves become accustomed to humans, then they are a
danger just as mountain lions have become throughout the West.
Even Yellowstone's records document several coyote attacks on
humans. Similar incidences have been reported in other parts of
B. Wolves will reduce the numbers of animals observed by people.
Wolves are hunters. They hunt 365 days a year and need 5 to 10
pounds of meat per day to survive. Therefore, to maintain a
healthy wolf population, wolves would have to kill a significant
number of wild animals for survival. Thus, there would be fewer
animals seen by wildlife viewers.
Additionally, fewer animals will be observed due to the wariness
of the animals. Just as elk or deer become vigilant during
hunting season, so will the wild animals of the regions where
wolves roam. One significant difference will be that hunting
season for wolves is year-round and therefore the animals will
be significantly more wary and seen less by people. Algonquin
Provincial Park in Canada is a good example - deer are seldom
C. Reduction of harvestable game. In other words, wolves will have
a negative impact on hunting. Often recovery programs are
implemented in National Parks where hunting is not allowed.
However, the wild game herds migrate out to areas where people
can hunt them. Wolves will reduce these animal numbers. Wayne
Brewster, a National Park Service Biologist, told guides and
outfitters, who lived north of Yellowstone National Park, to
expect a fifty percent (50%) reduction in harvestable game when
wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park.
Wolf predation and harvest by man (hunting) are not compatible.
Studies have shown that prey populations cannot withstand
hunting by man and uncontrolled wolf predation. If wolves
recover in an area where hunting is allowed, hunting would most
likely be stopped or limited significantly for the benefit of
wolf recovery. Studies on wolf recovery have estimated that
hunting could be reduced by 50% in certain cases.
Hunting has a significant positive impact on the economies of
the western states. It is a valuable wildlife management tool.
Hunting can be used very effectively to control wildlife
populations while contributing substantial amounts of money for
wildlife habitat improvement and wildlife studies.
Wolf predation contributes no monies to states' economies,
habitat improvement or wildlife studies. Wolf predation causes
management costs to rise dramatically while offering no positive
economic gain in return.
D. Balance of nature will not be restored. Many claim the wolf is
"the missing link" in the ecosystem. What's not being said is
that wolves would create a whole new set of problems in the
course of nature and wildlife management. Studies in Minnesota,
Alaska, and Canada prove this conclusively.
E. Wolves will kill livestock. Our research indicates there is more
history on wolves and their destruction of livestock than any
other predator. A good book, still available through Inter-
Library Loan, is THE WOLVES OF NORTH AMERICA, by U.S. Fish and
Wildlife biologists Stanley Young and Arther Goldman.
From the time of the colonists, wolves have killed livestock.
One of the first wolf bounty laws was passed in Boston in 1630.
It wasn't until the 1930s that wolves were significantly reduced
in number to prevent livestock depredation in the U.S.
Here's how wolves impact hunting so severely. Wolves are opportunists,
meaning they kill whatever is convenient. This may be an old or sick
animal, a pregnant female (wolves are particularly hard on females
heavy with young - they kill many of them), but most significantly they
prey on the young due to the ease of catching and killing them.
We have interviews with several wolf biologists in Canada. Wolf
biologist John Elliot (British Colombia Ministry of Environment) took
the time to explain the impacts of wolf predation on a herd of wild
game, whether it be moose, caribou, elk or deer.
In this particular example, he used a number of 300 females in a herd
of elk. In his region, wolf predation is often 90% on the young (100%
mortality rates due to predation are common in the north). If 300
females gave birth in an area of wolves, the approximate loss would be
about 270 young calves killed during the summer months, leaving 30
yearlings to serve as replacements. A regular die-off rate on such a
herd is about 10%. So the 30 yearlings would balance out the regular
mortality rate of the female segment of the herd.
But overall there is a decline in the elk herd due to the fact the 30
yearlings are usually sexually split in half (15 females and 15 males),
thus the reproductive segment of the herd declines although the numbers
appear to balance out. Without some form of wolf control, the rate of
decline will increase within a few years.
There were approximately 100 males in this herd of elk. Figuring the
regular mortality rate and compensating with the surviving young leaves
5 animals which may be harvested by man (harvest of males only).
Now if this herd of elk were in an area of no wolves, there would be
approximately 60 - 70% successful reproduction (calves making it to
yearlings) or 200 young. Half of those surviving young would be male
(100 animals). After figuring a 10% mortality rate, 90 older animals
could be harvested without impact to the overall herd numbers. In fact,
the herd would increase due to additional numbers of the reproductive
segment (females) of the herd.
Dr. Charles E. Kay, Ph.D. illustrates the impacts of wolf predation on
hunting in a comparison of moose populations in British Colombia to
that of Sweden and Finland. Both areas have a comparable amount of
Dr. Kay stated:
"During the 1980s in Sweden and Finland, the pre-calf or the
wintering population of moose was approximately 400,000 animals and
was increasing. While in British Colombia, it was 240,000 animals
"In British Colombia where they have a population of 240,000 animals
and after a calving season, they killed only 12,000 animals which is
a 5% off take. In Sweden and Finland, on the other hand, they have
400,000 moose and guess how many they killed in the fall? They
killed 240,000 moose in the fall which is a 57% off take rate.
"Now the two main differences, I don't want to imply that there's
not vegetation differences and other things, but the two main
differences is that British Colombia has somewhere between 5,000 and
6,000 wolves, all sorts of bears, grizzly bears and black bears,
which are also important predators, and mountain lions. Sweden and
Finland have none of the above."
The 2 maps included with this fact sheet further illustrate these
impacts caused by wolves.
Let's address another important issue concerning wolf recovery -
compensation to ranchers for livestock killed by wolves. Defenders of
Wildlife have established a $100,000 compensation program to reimburse
Wyoming, Idaho and Montana ranchers (Yellowstone Wolf Recovery) and New
Mexico and Arizona ranchers (Mexican Wolf Recovery) for losses caused
by wolves. This program is often referred to as the answer to ranchers'
concerns about livestock loss to wolves.
In reality, the program is nothing more than a publicity tool for
Defenders. It is totally inadequate for addressing the problem of
livestock loss to wolves. Here's why:
First, the animal killed has to be "confirmed" as a wolf kill.
Confirming a wolf kill can be done by examining the carcass noting
areas attacked, bite marks, possible tracks, etc. However, this is
difficult due to certain natural processes.
1. Carcass not found - totally eaten. Wolves are opportunists,
meaning they kill whatever is easiest. Wolves are well known to
kill the young, both of wild animals and domestic stock. If a
young calf or lamb is killed by a wolf, most, if not all, of the
animal is eaten so that you simply cannot find the carcass.
2. Scavengers and decay, especially in hot weather, rapidly
eliminate evidence confirming cause of death. Scavengers --
coyotes, eagles, fox, skunks, crows, ravens, magpies, gulls --
are often waiting to feed on the carcass before the wolves
leave. Consequently, there is no confirmation.
3. Terrain - heavy vegetation, such as timber and undergrowth hide
the carcass. There are thousands of acres of heavy timber in the
United States. A carcass can be easily overlooked.
So Defenders can't lose too much. Animal Damage Control Officers tell
us confirmed kills are often 10% or less of what a predator actually
kills, meaning that up to 90% of the livestock lost to wolves will
never be compensated under this program or any program similar to it.
The compensation program is also short term. Defenders have specified
the program will be in effect until the wolf is removed from the
Endangered Species List. That means when there are significant numbers
of wolves to merit their removal from the ESA, Defenders' program will
cease. One would assume when wolves are in significant numbers in
various regions of the U.S. to merit removal from the ESA, there would
be more loss of livestock to wolves than with a few turned loose in a
We wouldn't want to give you the impression that Defenders instituted a
program in which they knew they could not lose unless that is what they
had planned. Hank Fischer, Representative for Defenders of Wildlife,
stated: "The purpose of a compensation program isn't to make ranchers
happy or gain their support,... The purpose of the program is to
develop enough of a political and economic comfort level with the
public so as to allow wolf recovery to proceed unimpeded." It has
worked very well for them.
Another aspect of compensation should also be addressed. How does one
compensate a person for the emotional loss felt when a beloved pet or
family animal is killed by wolves? This question was driven home to us
when an elderly woman called our office and related the following
In the early 1900s, her family homesteaded in east central Wyoming.
She and her sister were the only children. There was a country school
four miles away. Each day the children rode bareback on the family
horse to school. The horse was pastured near the school during the day
and then the children rode the horse home.
One winter morning, the horse failed to come in. The father and the two
sisters went to investigate and found, by examining the tracks left in
the snow, that two wolves had passed through the area in the night and
attacked the horse. The wolves were able to rip open the abdominal
cavity of the horse, causing the intestines to fall out on the ground.
Thus, they found the horse, still alive, standing on its own
intestines. The horse had to be killed.
Just how does one compensate those children for their loss?
Finally, two important points:
1. It's questionable how much actual benefit wolf recovery is for
wolves. We do know wolf recovery benefits the people who make money
off the animal. These are the special interest groups, biologists
and researchers who study and promote the animal -- often at great
taxpayer expense. Further, there are those who use endangered
species as a surrogate for personal agendas such as anti-hunting and
land control. There's also a conflict of interest involved: "Those
who write recovery plans for wolves and other endangered species,
choose the alternatives, conduct and edit the science, edit the
comments and make all the decisions, are the same ones who benefit
directly from their own contrived determinations."
2. Wildlife management is an art science, not a specific science. A
specific science is something that is specific and can be tested,
tested and re-tested with the same results every time. Chemistry is
an example. A chemist can mix one element with another element and
get a certain and definite reaction every time. That is specific.
Wildlife management is an art science in that there are so many
variables that two biologists can look at the same studies and come
up with different conclusions. Quite often wolf biologists do not
agree with each other in their studies about wolves.
This is the very reason for the need to review history. History
helps biology and wildlife management become realistic.
For more information, contact:
ABUNDANT WILDLIFE SOCIETY OF NORTH AMERICA
PO Box 2
Beresford, SD 57004
(605) 751 - 0979
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