Wolves’ bad rap is undeserved
“Howl no to wolves in Colorado” (letters, Jan. 27, aspentimes.com) airs fears similar to those I heard before wolves were returned to the northern Rocky Mountains. After studying forestry and wildlife management at CSU Fort Collins, and serving as west district naturalist at Rocky Mountain National Park, I was on the Yellowstone Center for Resources team that restored wolves to the park.
I helped put together two reports for Congress, “Wolves for Yellowstone,” and the Gray Wolf EIS of 1994. Now we have 25 years of experience with wolves in the northern Rocky Mountain states, from which Coloradans can learn, and allay their fears about wolves wiping out native wildlife.
For instance, here are elk population and harvest figures since wolf restoration.
• Wyoming — 1995 elk population, 103,448; 1995 elk harvest, 17,695; 2018 elk population, 110,300; 2018 elk harvest, 25,091; average hunter success rate, 44.8%
• Montana — 1995 elk population, 109,500; no harvest data for 1995; 2018 elk population, 138,470 (objective 92,138); 2018 elk harvest, 27,793
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• Idaho — 1995 elk population, 112,333; 1995 elk harvest, 22,400; 2017 elk population, 116,800 (18 elk units at or above objective, 10 units below for a variety of reasons); 2017 elk harvest, 22,751; 2018 harvest, 22,32; no statewide population figure available for 2018.
From 1995 to 2018, Yellowstone hosted 101,070,722 visitors, none of whom was injured by a wolf. Among 2.7 million tent campers in Yellowstone from 1995 to 2018, no camper was injured by a wolf.
The effects of wolves on the park over 20 years are detailed in Yellowstone Science 24(1). You can get it at Yell_Science@nps.gov. A great book, “Wolves on the Hunt” (2015), rebuts many common assertions about the ability of wolves to kill anything they want to, anywhere they choose. Elk, moose, deer, bighorn sheep and pronghorn are doing fine in Yellowstone.
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Kudos to Laurine Lasselle for her well-written, well-researched article interpreting the data from the 2020 census (“2020 census data highlights relationship among resort communities, downvalley locales,” Aspen Journalism).