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Why the Beaver Should Thank the Wolf

September 30, 2012 | Wolves / Hunting & Wildlife Management

The New York Times -- Op-Ed

By MARY ELLEN HANNIBAL
San Francisco

THIS month, a group of environmental nonprofits said they would challenge the federal government's removal of Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in Wyoming. Since there are only about 328 wolves in a state with a historic blood thirst for the hides of these top predators, the nonprofits are probably right that lacking protection, Wyoming wolves are toast.

Many Americans, even as they view the extermination of a species as morally anathema, struggle to grasp the tangible effects of the loss of wolves. It turns out that, far from being freeloaders on the top of the food chain, wolves have a powerful effect on the well-being of the ecosystems around them - from the survival of trees and riverbank vegetation to, perhaps surprisingly, the health of the populations of their prey.

An example of this can be found in Wyoming's Yellowstone National Park, where wolves were virtually wiped out in the 1920s and reintroduced in the '90s. Since the wolves have come back, scientists have noted an unexpected improvement in many of the park's degraded stream areas.

Stands of aspen and other native vegetation, once decimated by overgrazing, are now growing up along the banks. This may have something to do with changing fire patterns, but it is also probably because elk and other browsing animals behave differently when wolves are around. Instead of eating greenery down to the soil, they take a bite or two, look up to check for threats, and keep moving. The greenery can grow tall enough to reproduce.

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Comments

I don't think you understand - obviously I have no interest in Wyoming becoming like New York or California. Here is my point - if you don't live in the state of Wyoming and bear the burden of living with wolves, then why do you think you can dictate how the state manages wolves when you're not a resident? I don't care about other states...I don't care if they kill wolves or not. I am not a resident of New York or California, so I could care less about how they manage their wildlife. Here is the reality - it doesn't really matter what laws are on the books, the people of this state have decided to control the wolf population. All the litigation in the world will not change that path. FoA comments: The wolves don't belong to the residents of Wyoming so you don't have a say in whether they live or die. They don't belong to the federal government. They belong to themselves. Leave them alone. That's pretty clear. If Wyoming pursues the same path that New York and many other states have, there will be less or no wolves and more and more people and development. Nature will be damaged beyond repair.

Why do we humans never learn from our mistakes? We nearly exterminate a species, then bring it back from the brink, then decide to exterminate it again... what gives us the right to decide whether a species should be allowed to live? Wolves are majestic animals who were here before us. If they were not needed in the ecosystem, they would not have been a part of it for thousands of years, it's as simple as that. And yes, they eat other animals. That is why nature, in it's infinite wisdom, always makes sure that the prey species have more young than the predator species. This maintains a balance. Our intervention is not needed. Oh, and last time I checked, Wyoming was still a part of these beautiful United States. So, Long Time Wyoming Resident, if you think your state should make all it's own decisions and not be subject to federal laws, maybe you should try declaring Wyoming an independent country. After all, it worked so well for people of Waco, Texas.;)

I don't believe this should be a federal issue...or an issue for other states to decide. What impact are states such as New York and California seeing from wolves? Nothing...nothing. So why should this be an issue for anyone else but the state of Wyoming to decide? If you want wolves so badly, propose reintroducing them to YOUR state. The majority of Wyoming citizens support responsible hunting of wolves. As I write this, the second day of legal wolf hunting continues in Wyoming. I fully support a controlled population of wolves in this state, but not a population without limits. FoA comments: The mistakes made by other states in killing wolves should not be given as a reason to kill wolves in Wyoming or elsewhere. Do you really want to turn Wyoming into New York? If you like New York so much that you want to emulate its failure in living with wolves, move to New York, but leave the wolves in Wyoming alone.

"Instead of eating greenery down to the soil, they take a bite or two, look up to check for threats, and keep moving. The greenery can grow tall enough to reproduce."? Are you kidding me? Do you really believe that is what is going on? You are completely disconnected from reality. Here is the reason why the greenery is improving...fewer "animal friends" to eat it!!!! Wolves are killing elk, moose, deer...just about anything that eats greenery. It is as simple as that! Please leave Wyoming alone and keep your vast knowledge in the state of California...it is clear these ideas are improving conditions in that part of the country. FoA comments: If true, then that is great news from an unlikely source. It shows that wolves are an important part of the eco-cycle. Wolves help maintain a healthy balance of greenery and grazing animals. Too little greenery increases water and wind erosion of the soil. Thanks for the tip.

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