Wolf Controversy

Published 21 Jun 2017

Introduction & Thesis

There has been a lot of controversy over the reintroduction of the wolf into certain native parts of the United States including areas in the North West such as Yellowstone National Park. The reason for this controversy will be explored and two sides of the equation will be introduced in this paper. The support of this paper will be that wolves should be reintroduced to their native environment as part of the balance of the ecosystem in a predator prey ratio.


The wolf has been a long member of the Yellowstone National Park until recent events in the past several decades had warded off the park’s authorities from allowing it to be in the park. The scare of the wolf is that it is a predatory animal and does not discriminate its prey from bear, fox, or human child. The wolf’s man enemy is man. With the controversy of whether or not to reintroduce wolves into the park, the main components which opposed this project were ranchers whose farms surrounded the park, and whose livestock were prey to this beast (Bales paragraph One). What further aggravated the situation was the fact that the Grey wolf (the main predatory wolf in the Park and in the Rockies) was protected under the Endangered Species Act thus making it illegal for the ranchers to protect their livestock from the wolf, a person could be punished with up to a $100,000 fine and up to 1 year in jail for killing a wolf” (Bales Paragraph Two). With this food source so readily available and ranchers being unable to legally kill a wolf, the controversy over the wolf’s return to the park is a major issue.

Even in Yellowstone National Park however there were laws at its inception which favored the more docile creatures and left the main predators a source of fear, as Bales states, “In the year 1916 the National Parks 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 long gone before that” (Bales Paragraph Four). This meant that during this time period the population of the wolf drastically dropped. It is because of this reason that the reintroduction of the wolf into the wild is such an important issue. Without the natural balance of predator and prey the harmony of the environment will suffer which will cause and influx of other unnatural disasters. These disasters can include overpopulation of the prey source without a natural predator to curb the race, large numbers of deer and other prey animals will overrun the park and the surrounding areas causing other types of devastation.

With the above stated facts about overpopulation the idea of reintroduction of the wolf into the wild began a project through the Fish and Wildlife Services. The three areas where the wolf would be reintroduce were Montana, Yellowstone and the central part of Idaho (Bales Paragraph Five). For this project the Fish and Wildlife Services decided that, “The recovery goal for the Grey Wolf was ten breeding pairs per area, which meant ten packs of ten wolves, or 100 total. With the release of the 1987 plan, a lot of opposition was raised” (Bales Paragraph Five). With the introduction of wolves being actively sought for these areas a lot of planning had to be involved to properly acclimate the wolves into these one native lands,

For the first time in 70 years, the howl of the Grey Wolf is being heard throughout Yellowstone Park (Sanders, 2000). In January of 1995, 14 wolves from separate packs in Canada were trapped and transported to Yellowstone. Once in the park the wolves were placed in one acre acclimation pens. In total there were three pens scattered across the northern portion of Yellowstone: one a Crystal Creek, another at Rose Creek, and the last at Soda Butte. During the wolves time spent in these pens they were fed winter kill, or road kill. The packs that were formed in these pens were released in the winters of 1995-1996 and also again in 1996-1997 for a second release period (Sanders, 2000). In 1995 fourteen wolves were released and in 1996 seventeen were released. In 1997 there were 64 pups born and since 1995, 33 wolves have died in the Yellowstone area (Bales Paragraph Six).

As has been mentioned prior the main opposition of the wolf into the wild again has come mainly, and strongly from the ranchers whose livestock surround the area where the wolf has been released.

In order to better understand the viewpoint of the rancher’s opposition a little bit about the eating habits of the wolf is necessary to know. The wolf is a predatory animal. Thus, it will hunt prey that is the easiest to capture, kill and eat. Most of the ranchers who are surrounding the areas where the wolf is reintroduced to have the following animals: Cows, horses, sheep, or goats. All of these animals are a very easy prey for the wolf and thus, the wolf does not have to hunt as hard to find and kill these animals, and thus, the wolf has found a smorgasbord of food readily available and with minimal effort to hunt. These factors keep the wolf coming back continually to the rancher’s farms and attacking the ranchers’ animals, “From 1995 to 1998 there have been 9 head of cattle and 132 sheep killed by wolves. The wolves that have killed livestock were mainly traveling from Canada to Yellowstone, across Montana. From 1987 to 1997 Defenders of Wildlife have paid $42,000 for 62 cattle and 141 sheep that have been lost to wolves. Many environmentalists feel that ranchers will kill off all of the introduced wolves. Only two wolves have died legally, while seven have died of unknown causes” (Bales Paragraph Seven).

As part of the controversy over this reintroduction in 1997 there was a lot of court cases involving what to do with the wolves because of the ranchers’ complaint. The judge who was ruling over the case decided on three separate actions: to return the wolves to Canada, to kill them, to give them to zoos. None of these actions however were taken and nothing about the wolves was done (Bales Paragraph Eight).

The final debate over the wolf controversy was to have the wolves put in state control by passing laws to Congress. The first state to do this was Wyoming who stated and was supported by the Fish, Wildlife and Parks that the wolf should be considered a predatory species and as such should be hunted freely outside of reserves, parks and private property. This law came across to the environmentalist as contradictory to the reason the wolf had to be reintroduced into the wild in the first place since the reason the population had suffered was from over killing. Thus, Wyoming’s law seems counterproductive (Bales Paragraph Ten).

It would seem then that the Fish and Wildlife Services was successful in reintroducing the wolf into the wild, however, the controversy over this issue, whether or not the state should take control over the situation, and what to do with the wolves and the ranchers is still an issue that has had no closure. A clear look at the facts must be considered in this issue. For instance while the controversy of the wolves and the ranchers is a great concern another fact that has not been mentioned is that, “Although wolves killed 500 sheep in Montana in 2003, coyotes killed 11,800, and disease, weather, eagles, bears, and foxes each proved to be greater threats to livestock” (The Journal of Young Investigators Paragraph Seven). This fact is seemingly invisible when it comes to the opposing side of wolves being reintroduced into the wild.

Another interesting fact is that in the debate over the ‘cruelty’ of wolves and their monstrous appetites to fed on the ranchers’ livestock,

In a Defenders of Wildlife press release about a July meeting in Albuquerque to discuss the reintroduction of the Mexican gray wolf, Fred Galley, owner of Rayny Mesa Ranch, described an attack in which wolves grabbed a cow and “proceeded to eat on her till she bled to death.” At the same meeting, Jane Ravenwolf of Sandia Park asked why death by wolves is more reprehensible than death by slaughterhouse, a question many wolf activists share. (The Journal of Young Investigators Paragraph Eight-Ten).


It is in this final statement that the debate of reintroducing the wolf should be focused; the wolf is a predatory animal, and as such the death toll of the wolf as compared to the coyote is outstandingly small. With this information it must be stated that the wolf should not be in the hands of the state as the state would want to issue laws in which the wolf would be once again hunted to the brink of distinction. Thus, the reintroduction of the wolf to the wild is necessary as it will keep population of other prey animals to a manageable level. The issue over whether or not the reintroduction of the wolf into the wild should be under the law of the state is ludicrious. As mentioned prior, the state would allow the hunting of the wolf, mainly by ranchers no doubt, until its numbers dropped to a dangerous level, and this time around there may not be any species left to put on the endangered species list.

Work Cited

  • Bales, J. The Yellowstone Wolf Controversy. Online.
  • Fitzgerald, J. FWP Compiles Varied Views of Wolf Future. Billings Gazette. 28 March 2003.
  • The Journal of Young Investigators. Restoration or Destruction: The Controversy
  • Over Wolf Reintroduction. Online. Retrieved 15 November 2007.
  • Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. Wolf Management. April 2003. Online.
  • Sinay, K. Wolf Reintroduction has had Positive Economic Impacts, Too. Yellowstone Safari Company, Bozeman Chronicle, 26 January 2003.
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