Wolves: Opposing Points of View

Learn about the continuing debate between those who see wolves as natural predators and those that see them as violent killers of game and livestock.

| August/September 2011

  • Wolf
    Wolves and other keystone predators bring ecological stability to the habitats in which they live. 

  • Wolf

Reader Robin Rick wrote a letter to the editor about our article Keystone Species: How Predators Create Abundance and Stability, and about the destruction that wolves cause to wildlife and cattle. The article’s author, Douglas Chadwick, responded.

Wolves Destroy Our Game

First let me say that I love your magazine and all the informative articles that you normally publish. That being said I must tell you how extremely disappointed I was with the keystone species article in the June/July 2011 issue! It was the typical one-sided propaganda that the unknowing public is being fed about the wolves.

I live in Cody, Wyo., just east of Yellowstone and while I’m not a biologist, I’ve been a professional guide in the mountains here for 11 years and have watched firsthand the devastation that the wolves have brought to our big game herds during that time. Our once healthy Moose population is nearly gone, and the local elk herds here have been cut by more than 60 percent. They have changed the way the elk have migrated for generations and caused them to abandon traditional calving grounds. The elk have left much of their traditional ranges and headed out onto the surrounding agricultural grounds causing damages to crops and spreading disease among the livestock in surrounding areas, and the wolves follow.

The wolves are not huggable backyard pets. They harass the wildlife 24/7/365. They do not eat just the old, injured and sick. Their preferred catch is the young, vulnerable and tender to eat. In the first years they would catch the cow elk coming to the traditional calving grounds, kill them, and eat nothing but the fetuses out of them. The calves that survive to be born are the easiest to panic and separate off from the herd to catch and kill. They chase herds to exhaustion and the young are the first to drop out. Most of the herds in our area have less than 10 percent, and sometimes less than 3 percent calf crop going into the fall and winter, let alone to survive the long harsh winter to come. The wolves get into chasing and killing frenzies and will kill individuals or whole herds and eat only a small portion of an individuals or none at all. Sometimes they only hamstring them and leave them to die a slow death as they can’t travel to graze or get to water, but a bear will usually get them within a week or so.

Due to the constant vigil for wolves and ongoing harassment, the cow elk are going into winter with little to no fat reserves and thus are experiencing very low conception/pregnancy rates. The bulls typically get something of a reprieve while they have their horns, but when they shed their horns in March and April they are fair game again. We’ve found bulls that didn’t make it 60 yards past their fallen horns in the spring.

The wolves get into the local cattle and will eat a new calf while it is being born and usually just enough of the cow to keep her from being able to rise to her feet again. Only later will she be put out of her misery by some cowboy who happens to find her, or she will die of thirst or gangrene if she is unlucky enough to be found.  And shredding friendly pet dogs are another favorite pastime as well, so hikers: Beware, keep your dogs on leash in the great outdoors.

Monica Martinez
8/1/2011 11:06:54 PM

I loved the keystone species article here. This proves that MotherEarth News relies on science and NOT on politics or greed. Wolves are a symbol of a healthy ecosystem and control species that are destroying the habitats around them. I am happy that there are people who read and have TRULY studied the science around wolves and their necessity to our ecosystems and habitats.

Ric Downing
7/26/2011 10:55:44 AM

The problem with uncontrolled numbers and unreasonable government protection, is the state of Wyoming and their greater than thou attitude. The wolf is here to stay and is not ever going away. Bring a real management tool to the table like Montana and Idaho, and you will have you state control. I live in rural Idaho, and litterally have wolves in my back yard. I am a hunter, and have shot an elk for 34 straight years. I have dogs, and I worry about them, as a result have changed how we let them run. The wolves are awesome, they have changed how deer and elk act, made them more wild. I suppose the road hunters don't like that and claim the elk are all gone because they don't see them from the front seat any more. And Kanas, what do you know about anything in the west? Heresay! Wolves, like people, need to be managed, and management will come with a scientific plan developed by professionals, not cowboy crybabies or city people. As for the cruel wolf, a gut shot elk, left by some killer who lacks the skills to be a hunter, or an animal with it's leg or jaw shot off is truely cruel, I have seen many of these animals left to die on their own. Maybe we should control humans!

Richard Juby
7/25/2011 1:20:53 PM

In reading Douglas Chadwicks article and his response I was surprised to know that Douglas was such an old person.I am always amazed at how "enviromental" folks are so incredibly sure of what was going "ten of thousands" of years ago.And , of course , the envitable introduction of the terrible "white man"...I guess the wolves never bothered the Indian since the wolf instinctively knew that the Indians were "one" with nature...OOhh and lived in caves with fire pits in the front at night..OOh yes and were on foot until those dang evil "white men" brought those horses over from europe...and of course the wolves were doing sooo well feeding themselves that for recreation they began hanging out with mankind sooo they would not what??? OOOhhh yes starve to death...hence we got the domesticated dog over time... Come on folks...any time you confine a species to a smaller area than what they are used to by nature there is going to be problems..in this case the wolf was used to having Canada down to the middle of the United States to roam and hunt not merely a small confined area...of course there are going to be problems on both sides..that has always been our environmental problem...instead of working together each side is resolutely sure that they are right..period...



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