Actors in Wolf Management in Yellowstone Park

This section is designed to tell the reader who the major players that are involved in the Yellowstone wolf issue. More information is available from the links posted at the end of each section.


It has been the concern of ranchers over the safety of livestock that has fueled the debate over wolf reintroduction in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. For over 100 years the ranching community has actively removed predators from their lands. The ranchers are again worried about the safety of their livestock with such a major predator roaming free in the area. The loss of cattle or sheep may not only cause financial hardship, but also an emotional loss. Before re-introduction ranchers around Yellowstone felt that any losses of cattle were unacceptable. Many ranchers still feel this way, but there are a few options that ranchers have. Wolf caught killing livestock can be shot legally; a fund has also been established by Defenders of Wildlife to reimburse ranchers for any livestock proven to be wolf killed. † Wolves found in a legal livestock grazing area will be relocated. With all these options available to ranchers some feel that wolves may not be the problem, but rather what the wolves represent, the government instituting control. Find out more about ranchers and the extent of wolf predation, or to find out how much Defenders of wildlife have compensated ranchers.

American Farm Bureau:

After Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt announced that wolves would be reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park the American farm bureau, and the individual farm bureaus for the states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming filed suit. The message sent was that wolves posed a threat to area ranchers and livestock. The farm bureau and a local family believed that prior to the reintroduction wolves already inhabited that area. The farm bureau wanted all wolves captured and returned to Canada, not killed. For more information on the American Farm Bureau and this issue visit an article on the court victory for AFB, and a follow-up commentary on this case.


Some environmental groups initially opposed the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone because these wolves were not fully protected under the Endangered Species Act. Website The reintroduced wolves were only partially protected and listed as a nonessential experimental population. National Audubon Society and Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund filed suit, claiming that the gray wolf was not getting the full protection that it deserved under the endangered species act. After Judge Downes ruling calling for the removal of the wolves, Audubon sided with the other environmental groups to appeal the ruling. Some of the major groups include Defenders of Wildlife, National Wildlife Federation, and Yellowstone Association, these groups provide much of the money that is needed to pay for the livestock lost to wolf predation. For more information, visit this environmental essay , or visit Environmental Organizations themselves.


With the possibility of seeing wolves, the annual increase of revenue in and around Yellowstone has been estimated to be 43 million dollars. The number of tourists visiting the park each year has also increased since reintroduction. Before reintroduction a phone poll as well as a gate poll was taken to determine how wolves would be accepted. Polls of the visitors showed that 80% wanted wolves back in the park. In the tri-state area the opinion was more closely divided, with only 49% in favor, 43% opposed and 8% didnít know. Nationally 57% were in favor of wolves, 29% were opposed, and 14 percent didnít know. For info on visitor statistics.


Previous to the introduction of wolves in Yellowstone the number of natural predators on the ungulate population was limited. Hunters feel that with wolves controlling the ungulate population there will be fewer animals available for their sport. Out of 90,000 ungulates, hunters take about 14,000 annually. So far the main prey base for the wolf is elk. Their diet does seem to be changing, as that shifts the hunting availability will also. Hunters may be in luck when the wolf is de-listed and states start managing wolf populations. Most likely there will be a season on wolves, how that will be regulated is up to the individual states involved. For info on how hunting has been affected.


Federal agencies:

In 1978 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) listed the gray wolf as endangered. Under this listing the ESA requires that the FWS complete recovery plans. It was decided that Yellowstone Park was a key area for a wolf recovery effort. Working jointly with the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service, the USFWS completed the Environmental Impact Statement. After the environmental impact statement showed that wolf introduction to the park would not significantly impact ungulate populations or livestock; Secretary of the Interior Babbitt went ahead with the re-introduction and filed the final EIS with the U.S Environmental Protection Agency in May 1994. To learn more about Federal protection and recovery planning. To learn about how the USFWS works regionally.


Yellowstone offers scientists a rare opportunity to study an ecosystem before and after a predator is introduced. Currently there are many researchers studying interactions of wolves with other species, including elk, coyote, and mountain lions. Researchers have also played an important role in the reintroduction. While the USFWS was developing an EIS it was up to the scientists to determine the impact that wolves would have. To keep tabs on the wolves researchers monitor individuals with radio collars. Each pack has a team of wolf biologists, studying the interactions and movements of the pack. For more information on current research in the Park.


State Agencies:

Federal management of wolf populations is mandated because of its endangered species status. The states of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming have really had very little, if any, control. The wolf will be de-listed after its recovery goals are met (which is at least ten breeding pairs of wolves must be maintained for at least three consecutive years in each of three recovery areas). The states then will get management control. All three states involved must have biologically sound and socially acceptable wolf management plans in place, if they are to manage this population.