Last week, an alpha female grey wolf known as 832F, perhaps the most widely seen wolf at Yellowstone National Park, was shot and killed after straying just outside the boundaries of the park and into greater Wyoming. Wyoming is a lunatic state that has legalized the mass shooting of an animal that poses basically no threat to anyone and is, in fact, an essential part of the ecosystem as a whole.
The grey wolf (Canis lupus) was historically found throughout the northern reaches of North America and Eurasia. In North America, it's still well-spread in Alaska and Canada, despite the best efforts of Alaskans, who like to shoot them from planes. But in the continental United States, it's had to be reintroduced and protected because state laws have bowed to the ill-informed power of agribusiness and hunters and allowed the wolf to be shot, for no reason, all the time. Yellowstone, just under 3,500 square miles in size, is home to, says the National Park Service, about 98 grey wolves, all protected within the park's boundary. Wyoming, the aforementioned lunatic state, covers nearly 100,000 square miles, and the state's absurd legislators have legalized the shooting of any wolf (even right outside the park's borders, which a wolf wouldn't recognize as borders because it's a wolf) so as to keep the total number of grey wolves in Wyoming to 150. Wyoming residents have shot 87 wolves this year, including the alpha female wolf, which spent 95 percent of its time within Yellowstone and made the mistake last week of venturing out into a state that has legalized its murder for no reason.
Earlier this year, under pressure from hunters and agribusiness, the US Fish and Wildlife Service de-listed the grey wolf from Wyoming's endangered species list--after spending millions of dollars to reintroduce it to its natural habitat after the last time Wyoming residents shot them all. In 1995, wolves were reintroduced into the national parks, and they're still protected in the parks, but it's hard to explain the vagaries of national park borders and state and federal law to a wolf, so they tend to stray into the 80% of the state where they can be shot on sight. And wolf populations are still dangerously low in Wyoming. Yes, dangerous: shooting wolves isn't just useless, it's actively harmful to the environment.
Here are the reasons proponents of wolf hunting give to keep shooting wolves, and why those reasons are stupid and wrong.
Stupid Reason #1. Wolves kill livestock. Well, yeah, sure. In Russia wolves can really damage a watermelon crop (this is true, amazingly) but in North America the grey wolf is so far down on the list of things that can kill livestock as to render this reason completely ridiculous--and, what's worse, incredibly easy to check. You think you can't just look up the numbers and see what kills livestock? This isn't up for debate! This is thoroughly surveyed every year!
In 2010, according to the USDA, wolves killed 8,100 head of cattle, resulting in a total revenue loss of $3,646,000. Whew, lotta money, right? NO IT IS NOT. That's only 3.7 percent of the total of other predators; coyotes, which are everywhere, account for 53.1 percent, or 116,700 head of cattle. Other animals which kill more cattle than wolves include: dogs (21,800 head), big cats like mountain lions, bobcats, and lynx (18,900 head), and vultures (11,900 head).
And just for the record, we shouldn't shoot coyotes, either. Coyotes are not technically an invasive species, but they have shown a remarkable ability to adapt to heavily human environments and are certainly a bigger risk to livestock, people, and pets than wolves. In response the US government kills about 90,000 coyotes a year, so there's no need for you to wander around with a rifle shooting wild animals for fun. And if you live in an area with lots of coyotes, just get a dog. Dogs have been proven to be an extremely effective deterrent for coyotes, which are relatively small canids and are also fairly timid. Get a border collie. That's a good dog.
Now let's get into the real embarrassing stats. The idea that carnivorous predators are a major problem for agribusiness is like saying the cost of maintaining movable type is a real problem for the newspaper industry. That's just not how these things work anymore; if livestock is your business, you've got a lot of problems, but wolves aren't even close to one of them. Remember that wolves killed roughly 8,100 head of cattle in 2010. The USDA's National Agriculture Statistics Service estimates that 1,055,000 head of cattle were felled by respiratory problems in that same year. Over a million. Digestive problems took out another half a million head. And let's not pretend the inhumane manner in which agribusiness raises cattle didn't have something to do with that. Write off another 500,000 each to the weather and various problems with calving. Hell, just flat-out cattle rustling accounted for nearly twice as many lost head of cattle as wolves. Predators are only 5.5 percent of total cattle losses, and wolves are only 0.23 percent of the total. If you're shooting wolves it's because you like to shoot wolves, and I hope "gets enjoyment out of shooting majestic creatures" is listed in the next version of the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders.
Stupid reason #2: Wolves kill elk, caribou, and other ungulates. There are groups, like Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd, who maintain that wolves should not be protected because they kill too many elk. Here's how friendly the Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd is: they are such good friends with the elk that they want to eliminate the elk's major natural predator...so there are more elk for the Friends to shoot, with their guns. This is a hunting organization that is annoyed that a natural ecosystem is making it difficult for them to shoot the animals they want to shoot. In many of the Big Sky states, this is how hunting legislation gets written: with input and political pressure from hunters. Stop listening to hunters. Listen to scientists.
Furthermore, there is a great deal of evidence that wolves are actually good for the long-term health of the Yellowstone ecosystem, which is something you certainly can't say about hunters. Wolves prey on the weak and enfeebled; by culling the elk herd in this way, the remaining elk tend to be stronger and healthier, with less competition for resources. Wolves certainly do not pose any kind of long-term threat to the Yellowstone elk, unlike hunters, who prefer to shoot the strongest and most glorious elk they can find, because this is how you measure your worth if you are the type to measure your worth by your skill at shooting things with guns. Subsistence hunters, by the way, should be thankful for wolves, because subsistence hunters rely on strong and healthy herds, which wolves help maintain. This is how the damn planet works.
Oh, and without wolves, elk (and caribou and moose, if you go further north) experience crazy overpopulation, which is awful for the biological ecosystem, and further leads to a lack of resources which leads to a crash in population far worse than if there were wolves (and mountain lions, and bears) around to naturally cull the population. Wolves--even an unnaturally small population like that in Wyoming--are good for the environment, not bad.
Hunting to maintain natural order is sometimes required; in my home state of Pennsylvania, for example, there is a dangerous overpopulation of white-tailed deer. They have few natural predators, because we've shot them all (see: wolves, mountain lions), and there are more than the local ecosystem can handle. They damage forests by eating and trampling young plants, they wander into roads and get hit by cars because they encroach on human areas. They are dangerous, and there is a state program to cull them, in concert with scientific findings, to make sure there is a safe number of deer. Pennsylvania certainly isn't perfect, but that's the way this should be done.
Stupid reason #3: Wolves are dangerous to humans. Jesus Christ, no they are not. The grey wolf is a timid animal, much more likely to run from an approaching human than to make any kind of aggressive gesture. To be fair, wolves can occasionally contract rabies from other animals--they're not natural carriers themselves--and nearly all reported cases of wolf attack have been by rabid wolves. But that doesn't even matter!
There have been between 20 and 30 wolf attacks, three being fatal, in North America in the entire 20th century. Since wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone in 1995, there have been zero attacks. In that same 100-year period, there were 71 fatal attacks from brown bears (including the grizzly subspecies). Oh, and about 17 people die every year from dog attacks. Wolves run when they see humans. They are not dangerous. You are not "protecting your property" when you shoot a wolf in your backyard; you are murdering an animal that's scared as hell of you.
There is no valid reason to make it legal to hunt wolves. The only honest argument you could make is "I like to shoot wolves for fun," which is kind of psychotic, so shut the hell up about livestock or elk herds or danger to humans. And don't get angry when us sensible folks listen to scientists and make your insane compulsion illegal. Shooting wolves is bad for wolves, meaningless for livestock, bad for the environment, and bad for people. Conservation of individual species is incredibly difficult; we have done damage to our ecosystems, and they don't work as well as they should, and, yes, we need to find a way to keep it as healthy as possible given our own needs. And that's why we need to listen to scientists, not ranchers or hunters. We need to get the best data possible, run it through the best minds we can find, and make our laws in accordance with what will do the most good. We sure as hell shouldn't listen to a group that wants to shoot wolves on Tuesday so they can shoot elk on Wednesday.
Yellowstone estimates that a million people saw 832F in its short, six-year life. I don't even need to get into the whole "it was a protective mother, a fierce hunter, a noble leader of its pack" stuff, because this isn't about anthropomorphizing a wolf. 832F was almost certainly the most visible element of an important effort by the National Park Service to restore Yellowstone's ecosystem to its natural order, an effort that's vital to the survival of this park and even this country. People came from all over the world and saw this wolf, this rare creature, in one of the country's most beautiful places, the way it's supposed to be. That is an amazing thing. And now nobody will see it again, because it was shot, perfectly legally. And now it's dead.
You can tell someone is a liberal when they call hunting "murder" and abortion "family planning".
These wolves are animals. True, they are beneficial and beautiful animals, but they are simply animals. The language and passion in this article are appropriate for the mass slaughter in Syria, but not for wolves in Yellowstone.
I was thinking the same thing ppardee. And what kind of writer for a renowned magazine uses the word goddamn and goes on a rant. Use facts, no need to get emotional.
"Wyoming is a lunatic state..."
Wow. Is that rational science reporting?
yes because Wyoming is full of people who think they are killing machines. disgusting.
stop shooting wolves. you're embarrassing yourselves again, america.
show some more respect for other living things you losers.
not enough gun control WAY too many guns. and arseholes.
the wolfs took r jabs!!
then get a new skill set u fukin loser
The emotional element undemines the "objectivity", but people who shoot wolves are friggin cavemen. People who abuse animals are far more likely to become serial killers. Just saying. Dont marry a hunter, he might give you the beat down when he cant find any more wolves.
Regardless of the facts presented in this article, I was extremely offended by the author's lack of vocabulary and over emotional expressions. Pop Sci is getting deleted from my Google Reader feed.
Well this author is the same one who went on a lunatic rant about some "climate change denier".
That's the "god dam" spirit. I use to live in Phoenix on the outskirts of town, coyotes use to run through our neighborhood at night like they owned the place looking for rabbits. They would howl at night which was anoying. One lady was walking her small dog, they were so bold to run up and take the dog off the lease. There were too many rabbits in our neighborhood so for them to clear the rabbits out was a gift, but when they go after pets then that's when people fight back. Wolf are no different. Wolfs have been known to attack humans, although they are majestic animals if they were hanging out in my neighborhood and they attacked my pet I would shoot them too. However with that being said no one should ever shoot an animal just for the fun of it.
After the fiscal cliff and or 'whatever' budget that is decided by our government, the national parks management & staff will be reduced and this problem will only get worse.
The only savior to these and other animals will be strong laws and or penalties. Of course, if no law enforcement is around to enforce them, it might become moot.
I also envision law enforcement will be reduced with budget cuts....
By the way, after Jan 1st, I hope the government post what their pay raises will be, the hypocrites! But now I am venting on another topic……
Why is this even on PopSci? If I wanted to read an insanely biased piece attempting to persuade me to not kill wildlife, I'd go look at WWF or PETA's websites. I come here to read factual, informative articles about science, not be bombarded by violently opinionated articles... PopSci should probably add screening for psychotic wolf fetishes to its hiring process to prevent more people like this guy from destroying their already declining reputation as a scientific publication.
Not that I really expected any better from the author after reading some of his other articles... Case and point:
Please PopSci, stop this madness.
This author (Dan Nosowitz) is the same author that used POPSCI as a platform to attack some other guy on the internet (Kempel). And now he is using POPSCI as a platform again to attack an entire state, using profanity and broad terms of insult. This is far from professional journalism and POPSCI as a whole should be ashamed. Dan is not helping your reputation POPSCI, he is hurting it. Injecting extreme personal opinion, bias and a base to launch attacks on others does have a place on the internet, and that is a personal blog.
I am for wild life management, the upkeep and reduction thereof, both. Domestic and wild animals do need management and to be cared for.
Go tell a rancher who loses upwards of $200 for every lamb killed by wolves that those losses are nothing. It's more for cattle. That's money out of that's rancher's family's pocket, and making it a little harder to make a living. No, wolves should not be wantonly exterminated, but unless you provide compensation for those who suffer losses from wolves, you can't justly ask them to stop shooting wolves to protect their livestock and their livelihood.
“PoPuLar SciNCe “, two words that are often used in various combinations with this website. I have seen it so often, I am not surprise and do consider it a standard. With it being a standard, I think whiners venting on this article not being PoPSCi are off.
It is certainly unfortunate that these wolf are being hunted this enthusiastically so soon after leaving federal protection...
But with that said, the kind of purely emotional, reactionary ranting this article is comprised of is embarrassing at best, and will tend to turn the undecided/reasonable reader away from the topic all together. I always tend to lean heavily towards wildlife conservation, but by the end of this article I was left with the temptation to cull a few nuisance coyote in spite of Mr. Nosowitz.
*(Not for fun, mind you... you might be shocked to learn that many hunters are also conservationists)*
I cant help but wonder who on the PopSci editorial staff has a hard on for this writer. His articles rarely amount to anything above vitriolic smear pieces (or erotica should the topic be anything Apple...). Cant understand why anyone would keep him on staff.
The only people this article speaks to are already impulsively frothing at the mouth over the topic. It appears Mr. Nosowitz is writing letters to himself.
My above comment was meant as a 'goodway' towards Dan Nosowitz and PoPSCi.
I like animals more then humans, and i dont like people hunting for any other reason then for food, or protection from a legit animal threat. Poor wolves, leave them alone. My brother hunts deer and i still think thats cruel, but then i think im a hipocrit because i eat meat all the time, and that basicly means i help fund people killing animals so i can eat them, but i cant go vegitarian because i love burgers and nugets. I personaly would try to pet the wolf before i tried to shoot the poor guy. And its really stupid of our government spending alot of dough to bring back a dwindiling population just to let people hunt them again, just goes to show you this country i love is run by idiots.
Neanderthal man existed on Earth for 250,000 years. Then comes along modern man communicates better and has more imagination tool making skills and wipes them out, with a little interbreeding on the side with Neanderthal.
So in PoPSCi and the world around us, we talk, we kill, we talk and we kill everything around us and oh how we make wonderful weapons with our imagination too.
.......... sad sigh.
I agree with this writer and im glad they have a personal view on it. Why kill animals for fun, just because you can, were not wild animals our selves but have intellect and have moved past this. I understand hunting can be necessary for population control, come over to new jersey and help with our over population of deer, not hunt a these poor animals to near extinction because of old myths and false truths. I hope you "Lunatics" In Wyoming read this. I got a great idea, we have a overpopulation of Lunatics in Wyoming that are just wasting world resources, how about we go hunting!
Wow, the editor should be ashamed of themself. No fact checking at all. At the end of December 2011, there were an estimated 328 wolves in Wyoming, including 48 packs and 27 breeding pairs. This included 224 wolves, 36 packs, and 19 breeding pairs outside Yellowstone National Park. Per the game and fish website on wolves in wyoming.
There have been 58 wolves taken this year in Wyoming. With only 19 taken outside the established hunt areas. Just call the Wyoming Game and Fish and ask. They have daily updates on the wolves. 307-777-4600.
Wow, Caribou in Wyoming... That's amazing since caribou aren't found in Wyoming. If you are going to publish an article for such a respected magazine group the least you can do is check your facts.
I can't read your screed anymore. Please find a different outlet for your political rants.
Dan, I like dogs of any kind, please keep posting! Yes, I am sentimental and predigests for them. ;)
Oh.... lol... cats can still be dog food, just kidding. I am for all animals!
I'm totally in agreement with the writer of the article... being pissed off about wolves being slaughtered is the only way to be.
I agree that there is no legitimate reason to shoot a wolf in the lower 48 states. I'm sure your also correct about the reasons the wolf has lost it's endangered status. Who in their right mind would consider a population of only 150 eligible for removal from endangered status! I do think that your approach to this issue seems more emotional than professional and if you want to be taken more seriously I feel you should come at this from a slightly more matter of fact approach. You have the facts on your side, don't polarize the opposition by telling them they are essentially idiots!
"Shooting wolves is bad for wolves"
That is so blatantly obvious, words cannot describe. That's like saying "Drinking a highly caustic acid mix with gasoline and napalm laced with pcp and a touch of uranium is bad for you!"
This isn't science. This a political ideological rant. You talk like 832F merely wandered a little bit out of the park to see a movie. This site is riddled with cranks who are actually cranky enough to believe they care about objective science. Wolves don't pose a threat to people? Last I checked ranchers trying not to go bankrupt are people. Their taxes help support the wolf repopulation program. The wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone with the understanding the ranchers abutting the park would be protected if the program moderators could not keep their experiment inside the park. You know where else wolves are endangered? Central Park NYC.
I made my first Popsci account (plus a new email account) JUST to comment my opinion on Popular Science needing a new writer. The current writer is just way too unprofessional. I mean COMMON. Popsci, please do better.
This has to be one of the most biased, political, and downright offending articles I've ever read on popsci... SOMEONE remove this writer and get someone who is actually interested in science!
The author's anger comes from the fact that all this mess concerning wolves and how to deal with them IS JUST COMMON SENSE. And yet, despite common sense being public knowledge that everyone has access to, we still have large influential groups of people who'd rather shoot wolves than find ways to coexist with them.
We have still larger groups of people who seem to need re-taught the obvious benefits of minimizing the impact of human activities upon the natural world. Who despite having access to accurate information (which might lead to giving a shit) continue to take part in the product-driven consumer society that's wrecking Earth's ecosystems...
Cows are not native to North America. Americans wiped out the native species related to them, as well as passenger pigeons... dozens of others, hundreds even, and for what? Stupidity? Greed? The desire to kill things?
A great number of cattle ranchers graze their cattle on public land, administered by the Bureau of Land Management, at a price in 2012 of $1.35 per animal per month, the same level as it was in 2011. These ranchers shoot wolves on public and private land to protect profit they make off of OUR lands. Why in hell can't they earn less so we can have a healthier ecosystem? Would we pay more for beef if they promised to leave wolves alone?
Why do we have the need to dominate everything in nature? Why must we subject everything wild, natural and free to our will?
It honestly seems as if Mankind has set itself in opposition to the natural world.
*sorry for rambling*