Right now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is taking public comments regarding the delisting of the Gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act.
A vocal minority of ranchers and trophy hunters is clamoring to keep wolves out of Utah and drastically reduce their numbers in the northern Rockies. Idaho is proposing an open season to reduce its wolf population from around 600 to as few as 100. Tags may go for as little as $9.
In Utah the wolf has not fared so well. Every individual known to have trespassed into the Beehive State wound up dead or deported.
Ranchers have a restitution claim for every head of beef or sheep killed by a wolf. (How many calves and lambs would have been taken by the coyotes that the wolves killed?) Trophy hunters simply believe that more wolves means fewer targets.
I am no vegetarian, and among me, my father and my grandfather, no hunting season has been missed in the state of Utah for more than 80 years. But I question the logic in wanting to kill and exclude wolves from our Western landscape.
Research from Yellowstone has revealed that the presence of wolves, and their effect of keeping game on the move, has improved forage quality, water quality and the diversity and abundance of other species, and they have brought coyote numbers way down.
Trophy hunters want more targets, but a true trophy animal is one that has survived several years in the perilous wild. Without the wolf, the deer would not be fleet, the elk not wary, nor the moose large.
Life with wolves drove bighorns into the mountains and mountain goats to the cliffs. After eons of survival as top predators, wolves have become intelligent, social, spry and loyal. Together, predator and prey make each other wild and each step that separates them is a step toward domesticity. Killing a domestic animal is not hunting, it is slaughter.
The successful reintroduction of the gray wolf to the northern Rockies has been a triumph of conservation, a triumph of man's ability to create over his ability to destroy.
Gray wolf populations should not be considered "recovered" until Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Utah have management plans that allow wolves to inhabit all four states in viable numbers. (One breeding pair is not a viable population.)
I have looked into the eyes of a wild wolf, and I did not see danger; I saw hope.
* ROBERT WILSON teaches high school biology at Rowland Hall-St. Marks.