Saturday, December 1, 2007

Hear the Cry of the Wolf

In some rare good environmental news, the gray wolf has reached population figures (over 1,500) high enough for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove them from the endangered species list, which would once again allow hunting of wolves. For some environmentalists, the move is too fast, and should have waited until the population reached 2,000 or 3,000. But there is a method to the madness:

"Federal wildlife officials offer a paradoxical reasoning for their bid to remove the animal from the endangered list. To survive in the Rockies, they say, wolves must be hunted and killed.

By reclassifying them as "big-game," wolves could emerge from centuries of persecution and find a niche along other regularly hunted predators such as mountain lions and black bears. Those predators, too, were once at risk of disappearing but rebounded after their status changed from predators that could be shot on sight to big-game animals with limits on how many can be hunted.

Similarly, if wolves are removed from the endangered list, proponents argue, states could tailor the number of wolf hunting permits around target population levels.

But some wolf experts say managing wolves is not so simple. David Mech, a University of Minnesota researcher considered one of the world's leading experts on wolf behavior, predicted populations in the Northern Rockies could hold steady or keep expanding, even with hunting permitted, if the wily animals prove too smart for hunters. "

Read the full story here. The fact that continually amazed me when reading articles like this is just how low the populations of some of these creatures is. We are so used to the huge population figures of humans, whether it is the millions that live in our cities, or the 50,000+ that fill football stadiums every weekend. It is sobering to learn that in all of Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana, there are only 1,500 wolves, and just how precarious a population that is.

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