By Derek Goldman, Northern Rockies Representative
This week a coalition of ESC member groups and allies in the Northern Rockies have launched a new website aimed at providing science-based information and resources on wolves to folks living in the West: westernwolves.org. Check it out.
As a member of the steering committee that worked with the web designers to guide development of the site, I was amazed at the amount drafting, editing, reviewing and commenting it took to launch this thing. But it was well worth it, as the final product looks great!
The site was officially launched this week by seventeen conservation organizations to help dispel a few myths about wolves in the region.
- Myth One: wolves are eating all the elk, and thus depleting hunting opportunities. In fact, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Elk are faring well throughout the northern Rockies, 14% above population objectives statewide in Montana and Wyoming, and at or slightly above objective in Idaho. (That’s all according to data from each state’s respective fish and game department.) And according to data compiled by the same state agencies, hunter success remains high as well. Yeah, sure there are 1 or 2 elk herds out of more than 50 that are declining, but there are factors other than wolves behind it. If you’re concerned about threats to elk herds, you better be thinking habitat, because there is simply no greater threat to elk and all wildlife than the loss of habitat due to industrial and residential development.
- Myth Two: wolves are crippling the ranching industry because they kill a lot of domestic sheep and cattle. Hardly, wolves account for less than 1% percent of all livestock losses. That’s not to say individual ranchers don’t feel the pinch when a wolf kills a sheep, but the number of wolf kills doesn’t come anywhere near the number of sheep and cattle killed by say, disease, cougars or bad weather.
- Myth Three: wolves prey upon people, especially small children. False. Wolves are actually shy creatures, and tend to avoid humans. There has never been a documented case of a wolf killing anyone in N. America.
In spite of this reality, the wolf always seems to be the scapegoat for many hunters, ranchers, and anyone else looking for something to blame. Hopefully, folks can look into some of the information on the web site, and learn about ways to coexist with wolves. Then maybe, just maybe, we can move toward a wolf management policy that is driven by science instead of fear, politics and hyperbole.