Wolves not deserving of special treatment
Delia Malone’s letter to the editor omits some essential facts, foremost that wolves are not going extinct (“Speak out to protect gray wolves,” Nov. 18, The Aspen Times).
There are currently about 1,200 wolves in Montana, far exceeding the recovery plan of 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs. The population has been relatively stable over the last decade. Even with a 20% harvest from 2016-2019, wolves average 190 packs and 1,136 wolves.
Montana’s 2022 wolf-hunting regulations allow a harvest of 450 wolves, but set specific limits in each of seven regions, permitting from three (eastern Montana) to 195 (northwest Montana) wolves to be harvested. Once these numbers are reached, the commission must meet and make adjustments to the plan mid-season.
Four-hundred and fifty wolves is 38% of the population, not 80%.
Although this sounds like a lot, wolves have high reproductive rates and reproduce 30% to 40% annually. Many factors affect recruitment, but given the record of the last 25 years, wolves will rebound. Wolves are here to stay, but a human tolerance level is part of the equation.
Wolves, like all wildlife, must be managed. You can’t pick one animal, especially one with a very high birth rate, and exempt it from all management without a significant trade-off. Montana’s wolf population is 800% above the mandatory recovery number. There are many species that are truly endangered that would benefit from the funds diverted to wolves. A 40% reduction in wolf numbers can be debated, but to re-list a species that is above recovery levels and not endangered is a misuse of the Endangered Species Act.
All biota are important to the ecosystem and there are many keystone species such as beaver, elk, prairie dogs, red-naped-sapsuckers, and aspen trees. Wolves can’t be enthroned above all other species without a ripple of unintended consequences.