Now that the Olympic Peninsula is teeming with vampires, it hardly seems unreasonable to reintroduce wolves back to the region.
I guess I’m not the only one who feels that way. The Peninsula Daily News reports that a public meeting last year was packed with wolf supporters:
SEQUIM – A crowd of North Olympic Peninsula residents told state Department of Fish and Wildlife officials that gray wolves belong in Washington state – maybe even on the Peninsula.
“I want a bumper sticker that says ‘Wolves NOW,'” said Dennis Murray of Sequim, one of some 85 people who attended Fish and Wildlife’s Tuesday night “public scoping meeting” in Sequim on the drafting of a gray wolf management plan for Washington.
This is surely an excellent sign, especially in light of the fact that it was largely public opposition that ended a reintroduction effort in the 1990s.
I don’t have any public opinion research at my disposal, but I’ve been following this issue for a while it sure seems like something has changed. Maybe it’s the fact that the Rocky Mountain wolf reintroduction was such a success, generating strong public support and netting real economic returns. And while there have certainly been conflicts with livestock owners, the fears of wolf-human conflicts have pretty well been put to rest now.
Wolves are present in large numbers in seven states (and in small numbers in many more) and the fact is that wolves simply don’t harm people. In fact, anyone care to guess where the largest number of U.S. wolves live outside of Alaska?
Find this article interesting? Support more research like this with a gift!
It’s Minnesota by a landslide. About twice as many wolves live in the land of Prairie Home Companion as in all of the western states combined. And in addition to Minnesota’s 3,000 wolves, another 500-plus live in Wisconsin and another 500-plus in Michigan. You just don’t hear many stories about Midwesterners being gobbled up by wolves.
The 1,500-ish wolves in the Montana-Idaho-Wyoming region have been similarly wary of people. I think it’s finally sunk in on some level. So as wolves have made their way back into Oregon and Washington, the public response has been encouragingly temperate. That’s a good thing because few topics in conservation can stir stronger emotions than wolves. And now that wolves are returning to the Northwest on their own initiative, it’s time for us to have a candid and reasoned conversation about their place.
In Washington, state officials are already drafting a Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. (The section on the history of wolves in Washington is especially fascinating.) The plan is undergoing scientific peer review now and will be available for public comment in early 2009. We expect that the plan will develop a management scheme for wolves that have returned to the state on their own; it likely won’t have provisions for actively reintroducing them, not even into hard to reach places like Olympic National Park where they would surely thrive. I think that’s a shame—but the public comment period will be an excellent opportunity to offer corrections to the state’s plan. Stay tuned.
Photo credit: Gary Kramer, US Fish and Wildlife Service.
My impression is that wolves are resisted, not by those who fear their direct impact on humans, but by ranchers and farmers who fear their impact as predators on livestock.While it’s great that ordinary people in what is quickly becoming a second-home pre-retirement community (Sequim) want wolves, until you address the fears and needs of the farmers and ranchers, you will only be reinforcing the east-west polarization that haunts Oregon and Washington.
I enjoy hearing about the rare sightings of wolves in the Northwest, but I believe this article is too optimistic. There is a loud and vocal contingent that thinks the region is better off without these animals. If the conclusion is that public opinion has swung, I’d say a lot of ranchers and hunters were omitted from the survey. I don’t know that “ordinary people” is the term I would have used, but I think Steinman’s comments are pretty well on the mark.
Up in my rural BC community I can hear a wolf pack howling many nights of the year. Very close too. I often see their scat near my home. Visitors sometimes ask if i ever get afraid wandering around in the bush as i often do. My answer is that i might if i ever saw a wolf…but in thirteen years here i never have. Few people i know have seen more than one or two glimpses.One thing families might not realize is that wolf packs often prefer to hunt pets rather than livestock and larger animals. It is safer for them. So it isn’t just farmers and ranchers who lose animals to wolves, believe me. At least in my community people are very sad when they lose a pet to wolves but they also see it as a part of living where nature still exists, if even a tiny bit, in her own glory.I believe Defenders of Wildlife, or another such group, used to have a fund to pay ranchers for any animals killed by wolves. Last i heard it really helped smooth the transition of wolves returning. Perhaps people who want wolves back in their area could create a local support fund like that to share the costs of the wolf pack feeding on farm animals through the whole community. The costs would be minimal and the good will and community spirit would be worth the price alone.
We at Conservation Northwest are thrilled to have a seat on the Wolf Working Group that made collaboratively-based recommendations for the Management Plan. Your readers can let the WDFW know today that wolves are important to them: http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1201/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=25276 And don’t forget this week is your chance to comment on wolf protections in the Endagered Species Act. The de-listing proposed by the Bush Administration includes populations in NE WA. http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=SubmitComment=090000648078074f THANKS!