Wolves, like many predatory species, live as both an dangerous and endangered species. In August, all wolves in the Western U.S. were placed back on the endangered species list, and while this should allow populations to thrive, it could mean extra caution for the states’ farmers, ranchers and hunters.
Don’t be fooled by these majestic, adorable animals. Historically and recently, wolves have been known to take out sheep, cattle and even dogs. When wolves do get placed on the endangered species list, many farmers and ranchers are powerless to do anything to defend their stock. The livestock owners aren’t reimbursed for their losses, and the state really has no power to modify their treatment of the wolves that would help those losing animals.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources’ position on wolves is that they should be removed from protection of the Endangered Species Act, allowing the state to manage the populations.
Currently, there are no reported packs in the state and most wolf attacks have come from loners. The notion of allowing more wolves to thrive has, however, increased. The wolves are important to key parts of the food chain in these areas. A sufficient population in the state could increase the opportunity for an environmental balance. Wildlife-obsessed visitors would also be an economic benefit; a wolf population in areas like Flaming Gorge or Bear Lake could be a huge asset to Utah’s tourism industry.
Wolves and livestock would remain relatively safe in these designated areas as long a competition doesn’t force them to find food in different areas. At the same time, many factors could affect this equilibrium. One of the wolves’ main competitors would be hunters, and with an influx of wolves, big game populations like elk are more at risk. Predicting what happens with wolf and other populations is a valuable gamble, but more than a handful of factors can determine the success or failure of the wolves in our state.
On Nov. 12, the Utah Environmental Congress’ annual conference will be focusing on the impacts of returning wolf populations to the state. Guest speaker Kim Crumbo, director of conservation for the Grand Canyon Wildlands Council, has been dealing with wolf reintroduction issues in his own state and will be discussing the implications of bringing in wolves.
The conference takes place in Chase Mill at Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City. It begins at 7 p.m. and requests a $20 contribution. For more information, visit www.USEE.org or call 801-466-4055.