North American Wolf Conservation Paper

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I wrote this paper in my compositiion 2 class for the final paper. We were allowed to pick the topic, so I picked something that was important to me. This paper discusses the present state of wolves in North America. It also shows the trend of declining efforts in wolf conservation and why. This was my favorite out of all the writing assignments I have ever done.
  Ethan Essig Dr. Chandler Comp II, 9 a.m. MWF April 9, 2013 The Formally Endangered North American Wolf The comeback from near extinction of the North American Wolf in the Northwestern United States is a great tale of a species revival. This major success has resulted in a push from Congress in recent years to remove the Gray wolf from the endangered species list. Six states, Idaho, Michigan, Montana, Minnesota, Wyoming, and Wisconsin, have succeeded in this matter, removing the wolf’s  federal protection. According to the Associated Press, the wolf population has grown to approximately 6,200 individuals, excluding those found in Alaska, since wolves were added to the endangered species list in 1974 (Associated Press). Now that federal  protection has been removed in these six states, the states themselves are responsible for  population management, even though it appears they are more focused on keeping the wolf  population as low as possible. The removal of federal protection for wolves in the North and  Northwestern United States will significantly decrease the stability and safety of the species. The gray wolf has had a difficult journey to stable population levels in the United States. In the 1930’s , the wolf was hunted and trapped to near extinction; only a few small populations remained close to the Canadian border during this time (Earthjustice: Because the Earth Needs a Good Lawyer). It wasn’t until 1974  and the Endangered Species Act that wolves were provided federal protection in the lower 48 states. This was a step in the right direction for the stability and safety of wolves, but there was not a substantial effort to bring back the wolf to the United States until the early 90’s . During this time the US Fish and Wildlife Service initiated efforts to  Essig2 reestablish wolf populations in Idaho and the Yellowstone region (Earthjustice: Because the Earth Needs a Good Lawyer). After this, a new era for the North American wolf began as the  population grew beyond expectations. The reintroduction into Yellowstone was the event that really started the comeback for the North American wolf. In 1994, Mike Phillips, who is the executive director of the Turner Endangered Species Fund, started and led the gray wolf restoration program in Yellowstone  National Park (Goodall 146). It was the first time in sixty-nine years that there had been wolves in Yellowstone. The plan was to capture wolves in British Columbia, and release them into an enclosed area as they adjusted to the change. The wolves thrived because the region is meant to have wolves (Goodall 146). This was an exciting moment for the American people who expressed their desire to prevent North American wolves from going extinct. The program quickly became a success, surprising even Mike Phillips, who stated, “On any measurement you would like to observe, the program has been a success. The population has grown faster than expected ” (Goodall 147). Phillips was referring to the growth of the gray wolf population to 6,200 individuals in the Northwestern United States, and given the opportunity, they could still expand into other nearby states with low wolf populations, such as Washington, Oregon, and California. According to David Moskowitz, author of Wolves in the Land of Salmon , wolves need four things to flourish, “prey density and accessibility, landscape , connectivity, and security from humans ” (Moskowitz 184). There needs to be a large emphasis on the security from human harm. Humans are responsible for the most wolf mortalities in the Pacific Northwest, and the only thing keeping that down was federal protection, which is now gone (Moskowitz 185). The reason why six states no longer have to abide by federal protection is because in  Essig3 those states, the wolf population is stable, which is positive. But, there is also an underlying reason for t he wolves’ conflict with people,  farmers and hunters in the region who have developed negative attitudes towards wolves. Two big reasons for this are the misunderstanding of the wolves ’ e ffects on elk populations, and the delusion that government is trying to bring the livestock industry down by keeping the wolf around. These two reasons lead to the illegal killing of wolves that venture too close to livestock. Moskowitz provides a direct quote from a resident of the Pacific Northwest, “At the rate  the deer and elk herds are dwindling here because of unchecked wolf, cougar, and coyote populations, it won’t be long until we have little or no hunting opportunities left in this area.” Another resident from the same region was quoted saying that the wolf is another pawn by the government and animal activists to drive rural resource users off the land (Moskowitz 204). It was individuals like this that provided significant pressure on the state and federal governments to do something about the growing wolf populations. This was one reason for the actions by Montana and Idaho after the wolf was removed from the list in their states, making it legal to hunt and trap wolves. Idaho took the legal hunting as far as they could. “State officials say they intend to reduce the population from 750 to as few as 150”. The federal minimum in each state for the animal to remain off the endangered species list is 150 (Associated Press). As mentioned before, the reasoning for this is to decrease attacks on farm animals and elk herds. But this reasoning is flawed; elk and deer herds are not in danger of being wiped out by wolves. Biodiversity will be in danger if elk and deer populations grow to disproportionate numbers because of a massive reduction in wolf populations. The wolves help maintain stable populations. Also, the Gray wolf has very little influence on the amount of livestock lost each year. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, the wolf is responsible for .2% of unintended livestock deaths per year (Livestock loses). This statistic  Essig4 shows how little effect wolves actually have on livestock. Although the Great Lake states have not become as aggressive with wolf hunting, the trend being set by other states could create a similar situation in those states. Each of these states submitted a plan showing how they would monitor the wolf population to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The US Fish and Wildlife Service will check up on the wolves for five years after they are delisted. If the stability of the wolves is suffering, they will be put back on the endangered species list (Litigation on 2011 Wolf delisting). Based on how Idaho alone is handling the removal, it seems inevitable that wolves will be put back on the list. If legal hunting is bringing the population down to the bare minimum, it is important to also factor in the illegal killing. People were already illegally killing wolves, and now they have fewer laws to follow. The necessity of continuing to provide safety and stability to the North American wolves goes beyond avoiding the reversal of the years of hard work dedicated to their comeback. Wolves have a huge influence on the stability of ecosystems. In Yellowstone alone, wolves have, “allowed stream bank habitats to recover by changing the movement of prey items, reducing densit ies of coyotes, and providing food for scavengers.”  (Ecological Benefits of Wolves). Across the northern Rockies, wolves have helped maintain the health of wildlife herds by  preying on the unfit animals of the herd (Ecological Benefits of Wolves). These are just a few of the many examples as to why the maintenance of healthy and stable wolf populations is key to a healthy, functioning ecosystem. The solution to human and wolf conflict is not to decrease wolf population. Two ways to  begin to solve the problem are to utilize the completely wild land still available in the United States, as well as to increase education about wolves. Wolves do not need that much to thrive in an ecosystem. According to Mike Phillips, wolves, “need to be left alone and they need access to
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