Learning About Gray and Timber Wolves
from Illinois on
April 25, 2006
Thanks to Andrea Lorek Strauss, National Information and
Education Director at the International Wolf Center in
Ely, Minnesota, for answering these questions.
Questions and Answers
What do you think the most pressing reason is for the Gray
(timber) wolf not to be taken off the Endangered Species List?
People who want to see the wolf get more protection
generally think the wolf should stay on the Endangered
Species List. The belief is that federal laws are more
strict and protective than state management plans. Of
course, other people think we have plenty of wolves and
therefore they don't need protection anymore. It's all a
matter of one's viewpoint.
What effect do you forsee resulting if the gray wolf became
To answer this question we can look at places that used
to have wolves but no longer do, such as Kansas or
California. What has happened there in the years since
wolves have been gone? In some places, the wolf's prey
species - such as deer and elk - become overpopulated. In
other places, coyote populations boom in the absence of
wolves, and sometimes coyotes eat the deer that the wolves
would have eaten. Ecosystems are so complex that the absence
of one predator may or may not make a huge observable
difference - especially in the short run. However, there
certainly are plenty of effects that we can't measure in our
lifetimes even though changes are definitely happening.
Do you have an estimate of about how many wolves inhabited
the US before europeans began to settle?
No, there haven't been any official estimates of probable
wolf population before European settlement.
Do you think the same
results will occur as before (near extintion in US) for the
Gray Wolf if it is taken off the Endangered Species list?
I don't think citizens, funded by the government, will
make a concerted effort to kill as many wolves as possible
again. The world is a different place now and we have laws
that protect wildlife. Most importantly, people's attitudes
toward the environment have changed a great deal in the past
50 years and people understand more about how ecosystems
work. In addition, if the wolf population did decline again
the US Fish and Wildlife Service can implement emergency
Do you think there's a way for the wolf to exist without the
protection of the endangered species list?
I do think we can figure out how to coexist with wolves
peacefully. Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin will probably
soon have the authority to implement their own wolf
management (and people management) policies that will try to
take into account the needs and interests of all citizens.
Other states will be watching Minnesota, Michigan and
Wisconsin to see what happens without federal protection for
wolves. Hopefully everyone will learn from the successes and
Do you think the wolf will ever repopulate it's original range?
Since humans are now living in most parts of the lower 48
states, it's unrealistic to imagine wolves living
everywhere. It's also problematic to assume that wolves can
thrive if we relegate them to the patchwork of parks and
federally designated wilderness areas in our country. Each
state where wolves live will find some balance between the
demands humans place on the landscape and the needs of
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