There’s nothing new or particularly scientific here, but the term “trophic cascade” is always cool to lob at the anti-wolf contingent. Of course, its polysyllabic makeup tends to complicate its ability to be received.
Nevertheless, this is a great summary on the issue and it lists without nuance the many benefits of riparian restoration that the wolves have stimulated in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem.
Meanwhile in Idaho, wolves remain a target of state-supported eradication efforts under the guise of economic support for ranchers. I don’t deny at all the value of a few head of livestock to a thin-margined ranch operation. Drought, a growing corporate influence within the industry and ever-expanding government regulation has contributed to the decline of ranching as a true Western way of life. Beyond the wolf debate, this is an issue that impacts all of America.
However, the impact of a wolves on a livestock operation has been proven many times over to be minimal, even less so when head loss is compensated for by the funds of various private environmental groups. The industry was struggling before 1995, the re-introduction was not the impetus. Pun intended, it simply provides a convenient scapegoat.
“I don’t deny at all the value of a few head of livestock to a thin-margined ranch operation.”
I think the anti-wolf subset of the ranching community is short-sighted, unable to adapt to the changing conditions of its workplace. (The brevity of that statement is going to be subject to response, I’m sure.) In this case, the conducting of grazing operations on wide open expanses of wild land has to come with the acceptance of risk. Why wolves are any more to blame than a cold spell or an errant coyote continues to baffle me.
I have no problem arguing that wolves simply represent a physical form of government intervention; and while I won’t dare to sprinkle even a small percentage of the ranching community into the Cliven Bundy basket, let’s not act like pushing back on Washington isn’t synonymous with the western mindset. Many ranchers conduct their land wars and local legislative battles tactically and politically, unlike Archie from Bunkerville.
Thankfully, two wolf advocates I have read thoroughly, L. David Mech and the very person who led the re-introduction effort, Carter Niemeyer, both agree that “wolves are back” and that at this point, another eradication is highly unlikely. The protections have worked.
“News hits of a wolf kill before it can be proven, or weeks after a carcass has been picked apart by ravens, vultures and coyotes.”
I believe that man has always had an impact on the population numbers of the wild animals with whom we share the planet. But I don’t know why we think we have more right to a wild space. I also don’t believe wolves are responsible for as many livestock kills as reported. News hits of a wolf kill before it can be proven, or weeks after a carcass has been picked apart by ravens, vultures and coyotes. Let’s not forget how easy it is for a golden eagle to take a few sheep.
Point is, I believe balance is needed and that some wolf hunting will promote that natural equity. However, there remains too many people dedicated to ensuring that wolves simply stop existing, and promoting that man is more meaningful to the planet than other animals. Thing is, we can prove very easily that our impact, our trophic cascade, is much more detrimental than beneficial.
At least wolves can point to a healthy Yellowstone or Firehole River bank and bark, “Hey, we did that.”