Responses to Views Against Wolf Reintroduction

Added 4 January 2000, Revised 2 February 2008

Since I have had pages on wolf reintroduction on my web site, I have gotten a number of letters from people with opinions against reintroducton or stories about wolves killing livestock, people, and the like. None of these people have given me permission to quote their words on my site, but I wanted to make the discussions public somehow, since I believe them to be enightening.

What I have decided to do is quote my responses to arguments against wolves and wolf reintroduction without quoting the people that I was discussing the issue with. In order to make my comments more clear, I will, when necessary, reveal some background information better facilitate understanding my comments. I will put background information in (red italics)

(COMMENT: I received a series of vitriolic e-mails from a guy in Wisconsin who bears an extreme hatred for wolves, and apparently for me personally. He even accused me of hi-jacking the yahoo search engine site when my web site came up as a search result during one of his anti-wolf searches. That aside, I responded to each of his e-mails asking for more information about his claims, but never received any back-up information. At any rate, immediately below is a complilation of my replies to him. I will intersperse comments throughout (also in red italics) to inform the reader what points of his I am responding to.)

(COMMENT: The writer (I'll call him Mr. X, it's cliche, I know, but better than calling him "that guy".) cited several cases of wolf attacks, from 1994 to 2003.) - I have recently learned of several cases of a wolf or wolves attacking humans, which is truly sad. I am not a heartless person. But a few deaths does not justify irradicating an entire species. Every year, people are killed by: snakes, bears, spiders, bees, sharks, and even domesticated dogs, just to name a few. Does that mean we should irradicate snakes, bears, spiders, bees, sharks, and domesticated dogs? Of course not! Nature is wild, and can't always be controled, nor should it always be controled. What I believe we have here are two competing world views. Mine, which believes that the wilderness in and of itself, has intrinsic value, and what I believe is yours, which is that man is the ruler of all and can do what it pleases all the time.

After responding to the original e-mail, I did more research into the wolf attack cases Mr. X referred to. He referred to an attack on Trish Wyman. UPDATED 2/2/2008: I was unable to find anything about The Trish Wyman attack, but a couple of people have contacted me in response to this page. Both people knew Trish Wyman. Trish Wyman was attacked and killed by captive bred wolves that were nonetheless not socialized to humans. The incident occurred at the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve near Ontario, Canada. Trish had just just started a new job at the reserve as a wolf caretaker. She had only been in the 15 acre wolf enclosure twice prior to the day of the attack. She was in the enclosure alone when the attack happened, and nobody really knows what happened. While the wolves were not socialized to humans, they were also not exactly wild, as they were in close contact with humans frequently. Fifteen acres is a small area for a wolf pack. Any attempt to characterize the attack is just speculative, but the captive status may have had something to do with it. One thing is certain, her death was tragic, and should be mourned.

Here are some links that were shared with me concerning the attack:
ChexTV news report - The link to the video footage of the report is down at the bottom of the page. If the footage gets removed from the site, please feel free to contact me, as I have downloaded it to my hard drive.

What if the story of Ms. Wyman had turned out to be a case of healthy, wild wolves attacking and killing her? That does not justify irradicating all wolves. I strongly suspect, given Ms. Wyman's apparent love of wolves, that she would agree. Regardless, based on the views of some, that wolves should be irradicated because they may kill people, we should then also irradicate (in North America alone) black bears, grizzly bears, all poisonous snakes, mountain lions, aligators, coyotes, domestic dogs, polar bears, great white sharks, sting rays, bees (people are allergic, you know), and moose, and that's without going into the whole host of other animals that kill people through non-standard means (rabbies, infected bites, etc.) There is no telling how dramatically the world we live in would be negatively altered without any of the creatures that sometimes kill humans.END OF UPDATE

I was nearly killed in my sleep by a rock fall while backpacking once (in wolf country, strangely enough). If I had been seriously wounded could I reasonably blame the rocks and start a national campaign to irradicate all rocks in the wild because they're dangerous?

This may come as news to some, but wilderness is wild. There are certainly some in the anti-wolf camp who are truly seeking the irradication of wilderness itself, but that would be an extremely unpopular stance in this day and age, so they target individual wild species like wolves in order to accomplish their goals.

(Mr. X appeared to claim that wolves don't belong in certain places.) - Are you claiming that wolves did not naturally occur in Wisconsin? If so, you need to better inform yourself. Historically, wolves were perhaps one of the most widely ranging mammals other than humans. Wolves ranged from Mexico all the way up to Alaska, and practically every state in between. There are red wolves in Florida. The Gray wolf, which you have in Wisconsin, ranged all over the northern United States. By your logic that wolves don't belong, then bears don't belong. Elk don't belong. Moose don't belong. Fish don't belong. Trees don't belong. So perhaps you should move to the center of Green Bay where I imagine it's safe to say that nature has been pretty much destroyed (though I've never personally visited it), and leave the wilderness to those of us who appreciate the wilderness, even if there are animals in it that might do us harm.

I flatly do not accept your apparent argument that wolves should be irradicated because they occasionally kill people. That argument is a slippery slope that would leave this world a very barren place indeed.

(Mr. X referred to the consequences of the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park.) - As for the "consequences" of wolf reintroduction into Yellowstone, how about these: The coyote population has been reduced. Until wolf reintroduction coyotes were one of the top predators, and they were getting very comfortable around humans, a potential hazard to human life and health. The high coyote population was having an adverse impact on small mammal and rodent populations within the park. Without wolves, elk became more sedentary, allowing them to stay in riparian areas more exclusively, leading to degradation of those riparian areas. Now that wolves have been reintroduced, riparian areas are becoming more healthy because the elk aren't able to sit still and overgraze them. The elk have to move around more to avoid wolves, meaning that they more uniformly utilize the resources in the park. Visitation of the northeastern part of the park has increased dramatically since wolf reintroduction according to people I have talked to who have spent a lot of time in that part of the park. I'm sure that has done wonders for the tourism business up there. For a great article on the effect of wolves in Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding area, check out this page: If that link doesn't work, let me know, as I have the article saved on my hard drive.

(Mr. X stated that only food supply and disease controls predator populations, therefore humans must kill wolves to control their numbers.) - This statement is absolutely untrue. Predators kill other predators, and even kill themselves (this is true even of humans). Bears have been known to kill wolves. Wolves have been known to kill other wolves who encroach upon their territory. Accidents also kill predators. Even prey species have been known to kill predators, or at least seriously maim them and reduce the predators chance of survival. The fact that remains is that wolf populations, and indeed all predator populations, must be close to some equilibrium with what the land can support. Wolf populations were not exploding out of control before white man arrived in the New World. If they were, then white men would have found only wolves and prey that wolves don't eat. Instead, they found an abundance of deer, moose, elk, and a host of other "game" animals. That is not a sign of nature out of balance. That is a sign of nature in balance, without the assistance of mankind. Now, to the extent that humans have upset that balance, perhaps there are things that can or should be done to restore the balance, but I don't think that includes inserting ourselves completely into the niche of another species, because we could never hope to even fully comprehend a species' niche, let alone adequately fill it.

(COMMENT: I received an e-mail from someone who stated that even killing a wolf in self defense results in a a $100,000 fine and a mandatory prison sentence.)

The endangered species act has a self-defense clause in it, whereby any endangered species can be killed in self-defense. I found one case in which a rancher who killed a grizzly bear that had reared back on its hind legs a mere 30 yeards from him and acted in a threatening manner was fined $7,000 (or $8,000 depending on the source), but the fine was later overturned. There is certainly no mandatory $100,000 fine or mandatory jail time for killing any animal in self defense. Heck, a human can even kill another human in self defense and not get any fines or jail time! I believe this to be an example of people making wildly false claims as scare tactics to make people fear everything about wolves and therefore push an agenda.

As another example of that, the same person who brought up the mandatory jail time and fine also stated that wolves had killed 240,000 moose in Scandanavia . . . in a single Fall season. Let's say that Fall is 4 months long. The wolf population of Scandanavia has only recently surpassed 100 wolves. That would mean that each wolf in Scandanavia is killing an average of 1.3 moose per day! This is patently absurd, as moose are very large, VERY STRONG, and very stubborn animals. It takes an entire pack of wolves a great deal of time and energy to kill even one moose, and yet the numbers he stated would propose that a pack of say, 10 wolves, is killing just over 13 moose PER DAY. Even assuming that there are even 10 TIMES that number of wolves in Scandanavia (1000 wolves), that means that that theoretical pack of 10 wolves is killing more than one moose per day, which is also not a reasonable number, especially since it is well documented that wolves don't make a kill every day, let alone a moose kill every day.

(COMMENT: One individual implied that wolves are destroying an entire population of a species (elk), which makes them more acceptable to irradicate than other species. The person also mentioned how elk don't kill to survive.)

There is only one species on this planet that intentionally irradicates other species, and that species is Homo sapiens sapiens, humans. Wolves aren't trying to irradicate their prey species, nor is it even likely that they could. They simply don't have the tools, let alone the inclination, to do so. The fact that elk have lived alongside wolves for millenia is the surest indication that wolves have neither the intention nor ability to irradicate elk. Indeed, according to an article from a researcher at the University of Idaho (not exactly a hot-bed of radical environmentalists), elk populations are at all-time highs, and are predicted to increase. (

And elk do kill to survive. They kill vegetation. That may seem insignificant, but everything has an effect. If elk populations are too large, they can kill so much vegetation that they die off, and other animals suffer from the lack of food as well. It's not called the natural balance for nothing. In the early 1900's in northern Arizona, there was a major predator eradication program designed to increase game numbers. And increase they did! The deer population exploded from 4000 to 100,000, then crashed back down to 10,000. The deer ate every scrap of vegetation and 90% of the deer population starved to death. I've seen old black and white pictures of the dead and dying deer. They don't make for a pretty picture. These are the kinds of unintended consequences that occur when predators are removed from ecosystems.

(COMMENT: Someone finally agreed to allow me to post their comments on my web site. So I'll post her e-mail, then my response.)

Dora writes:

Hi, just happened on your website. I don't mean to be rude but I want to correct you on one thing. Wolves DO kill for sport and they do it all the time. In fact, if you get a copy of the McCall Idaho newspaper, "The Star News", you will see that the wolves just killed 80 sheep near Burgdorf Ski Resort a few weeks ago. The wolves are ravaging the wildlife here. They need to be controlled but there are too many now and they are literally wiping out all our deer, elk, and moose population. This is nothing but a big slaughter. And just think of all the money us taxpayers are spending on something we don't want. How would you like to be ran out of your home and have your way of life destroyed. The ranchers that settled this valley over a hundred years ago should not be ran out of their own home and have their lives destroyed because some special interest group, who SUCKS off the government wanted a job!! What will we do for meat when the ranchers are all gone? Cant eat deer and elk, nor moose either, as they will be gone too. In fact, they are almost wiped out now and will be completely in about 3 years from now if someone doesn't start a wolf depredation program soon. Also, most of the White Cloud Mountain Goats are gone too and they are an endangered species. Just so happens that that area is one of the first wolf drop sites when they were introduced back to Idaho. Also, the wolves killed 50 sheep in Riggins not long ago too. They kill for sport ALL THE TIME!! You have permission to use this on your website if you want to,


Thank you for taking the time to write. I tried finding the article on-line that you mentioned in The Star News, but they wanted to make me pay for a year's subscription to see the article, and I simply don't have the money to throw around for that, so I will take your word for it. I do wish I could have seen the article though to get more details. If you happen to have an electronic copy of the article, I would appreciate it if you would send it to me.

What other accounts do you know of? I would be curious as to what "all the time" means. Once a year? Once a month? Weekly? Daily?

At any rate, I would like to respond by making two points, fully accepting that wolves do kill for "sport". (I wouldn't be surprised to hear that all predators kill more than they can possibly eat from time to time.) The first is that wolves, deer, elk and moose lived on this land long before we (Westerners) were here. If wolves were such voracious hunters and were such a threat to deer/elk/moose populations, there would have been no deer, elk or moose left by the time we got here. They evolved in a balance with each other and would certainly achieve a balance once more.

As for the second point I'd like to make, with all due respect, I dare say that humans do far more "sport hunting" than wolves do. I have known a number of people who (when I knew them) went out "spotlighting." That means they pile in to the back of a pick-up truck with their guns, go tearing around the wilderness with the off-road lights on the truck on, and blast away pretty much anything that moves. What did humans do to the millions of buffalo that once roamed the prairie? They slaughtered them nearly to extinction. And bison are only one of many species that met a similar fate or worse upon human contact. Our track record doesn't exactly leave us open for calling wolves cold-blooded killers without more than a hint of hypocrisy.

As for your feeling that special interest groups are running you off your land, I can sympathize. I really can. For although I am not getting run off my measly patch of land literally, I do very strongly feel that the nation's parks, national forests and the like are very truly "my land", and my land is getting destroyed on a daily basis by people who only see trees as money, and only see the earth as a pound of gold. Having seen this destruction first hand, and knowing that I have only seen the tip of the iceberg, I am occasionally on the edge of being overwhelmed. Believe me, the logging, mining, and yes, ranching industries have their own very powerful special interest groups, who often affect the lives of others in very much the same way as you feel your life is affected. In a large country with many competing interests, there will always be those who get crushed under the bootheels of others. You feel you are one of those people, and I do too. I imagine I don't like it anymore than you do, but it is the reality each of us must deal with, and deal with it we do.

I appreciate you giving me permission to post your comments to my web site, and will do so.

(COMMENT: Someone related to me a story of two wolves slaghtering 50 sheep, without eating any of the meat. I will admit to being a bit skeptical about the report. The same person mentioned how wolves are "known" to kill sled dogs in Alaska.) I don't find it difficult at all to fathom wolves killing sled dogs. I can imagine a wolf pack finding a group of sled dogs and thinking them to be intruders on their territory. I've just never heard of them slaughtering prey animals like that before.

From the research I have read regarding wolves eating habits, they do not kill anything approaching a deer a day. Wolves' diets consist largely of small mammals such as rabbits. In Alaska, it was found that wolves even feed a great deal on mice. (On a similar note, during part of the year, bears in Yellowstone have been found to feed largely on moths in caves. Strange, yes, but apparently true.) There was a study done on an island somewhere off of Nova Scotia in which wolves were reintroduced to the island that was also inhabited by moose. Moose populations actually increased after wolf reintroduction. The theory for this was that the wolves culled the unproductive moose thereby freeing up food resources for productive moose, and also that the predation of the herd spurred the productive moose into higher productivity.

Nature responds to, and allows for predators. We needn't eliminate all predators to make room for ourselves. In northern Arizona back around the turn of the century, there was a huge effort to eliminate predators. It worked far too well. With no predators, the deer populaton sky-rocketed. The burgeoning deer population ate itself out of house and home. The rangeland was destroyed by millions of deer, which eventually starved to death. The deer population crashed horribly, and it took decades for the population to return to normal. Predators belong in the wilds. Being the sole predator on earth is not in Man's contract.

Now keep in mind that I have no problem with hunting or hunters, except for trophy hunters. I have many friends who hunt, and I respect that. In fact, I have more respect for someone who hunts than for someone who goes and buys ground beef at the store. The hunter has to face the animal he/she kills. There is a certain respect for the life that the hunter just took. When most people eat a hamburger, they don't even think about the life that was given for their meal. It's just a heat and serve Big Mac.

It is absolutely correct that a small portion of the hunting population gives hunting a bad name (i.e. poachers and trophy hunters). I have never personally known any poachers or trophy hunters, but I have seen the trophies of trophy hunters, and have encountered poached animals in the forest on at least two occasions. It is sad that some people have so little respect for life as that. Any life.

Perhaps I am naive, but I don't think that too many people are going to completely lose their livelihood because of wolf reintroduction. Ranchers might lose some animals, but wolves can be trained not to hunt domestic animals, and more importantly, there is that fund that compensates ranchers for animals killed by wolves. The fund actually pays more for the animal that is lost than the animal is worth.

(COMMENT: A person argued that the money spent on wolf reintroduction could be better spent elsewhere.) You mention the money spent on reintroduction, and how it could be used for the less fortunate. Think of it this way, the money spent on wolf reintroduction goes largely to the salaries of people working for the government. Yes, the money could be spent on homeless shelters and meals. But so could the money spent on a lot of government programs. Far more money is spent on missile systems than wolf reintroduction. Plus, wolf reintroduction keeps some segment of the population working, so it helps keep people out of welfare programs.

The following is from discussions with another person:

(COMMENT: An Idahoan related a story to me of a wolf pack killing a neighbors dog.) Thank you for taking the time to write and share your views. I understand your point of view, and am sympathetic, to a point. It is a shame that your neighbors dog was attacked by wolves. However, when one lives in a wilderness, that is the risk one takes. If you want a nice safe place to live, I would recommend that you move to Pennsylvania, where all of the predators have been irradicated and everything is nice and domesticated. I apologize if that sounds snide or derisive, but those are the ways of life. You have chosen to live in a place where dangers abound; wolves, bears, storms, etc. These things are part of the beauty that I suspect that you greatly enjoy there. (I have never actually been to Idaho, but I understand it is a gorgeous place.)

Mother Nature is not a benign entity. She'll readily kill you if you're not careful or if you're not strong enough. The same can be said for wolves, of course. That wolves aren't strong enough to compete with humans and therefore should be allowed to become extinct. The problem with that extension is, that humans have outsmarted themselves. Mankind thinks that they have done themselves a great favor by removing predators from natural systems. They have supposedly reduced competition for food, and removed the possibility of becoming prey to these other predators. Only one thing weighs in against these things. Balance. Predators, all predators (including humans) play a crucial role in every natural environment. Without them, systems fail, become less productive, and eventually harm humans, either through death or reduced quality of life.

Again, I fully understand your uneasiness with the possibility of wolves attacking you or your family. To this, I can only respond by saying that mankind is in no way in control of nature. Recent scientific advances have only given us the impression that we are. Bad things happen, and no one is guaranteed a long, healthy life. A dear dear cousin of mine died recently when he fell off of some bleachers at a hockey game. He was only 4 years old. His death was and is very sad to me, but people die. That death takes many different forms and at many different stages of life. Wolves do not have a vendetta against you. They are merely trying to survive. Just as you are merely trying to survive by killing cows, or whatever animal you eat for dinner. Do other animals have any less right to survive than you?

Be careful about your answer to that question. If you say no, then animals will always take a back seat to humans. If that is the case, then what will you think of the world once the only animals spared from extinction are humans, cows, chickens, pigs and sheep? That sure isn't a world I would want to live in. And since you like living in Idaho, I don't think it's a world you would want to live in either.

(COMMENT: A story was reported about a boy getting attacked by a wolf. The person had a question about the "healthy wolf" issue.) After doing a little more research (2005), I think it is safe to say that there are accounts of healthy wolves attacking humans. When put in perspective, attacks are extremely rare, however. A report by The Wolf Trust documented 80 encounters, some of which were provoked (like wolves caught in traps, wolves shot by darts for research, etc.), and only 16 of them resulted in human injuries. Even this number of cases means your chances of getting attacked (not killed, but just attacked) by a wolf are about the same as being struck by lightning.

As for the "healthy" wolf question. I have never heard "healthy" defined with respect to the statement that a healthy wolf has never attacked a human. I have always assumed that it meant a wolf that was not rabid, or the like. (And yes, there are most certainly accounts of "unhealthy" wolves attacking humans, though they are still rare.) The Canadian boy is the first time I have heard of a "healthy" wolf attacking a human. That doesn't mean it really is the first time. That is just what everyone says, and I understand that it may not be true. What I think I can say with a large degree of certainty, is that wolves very rarely attack humans. One doesn't open the paper every day to a list of the people killed by wolves that day. From what I know, wolves rarely even attack domesticated animals.

You are correct by saying that most people who make statements regarding wolves (pro-wolf) don't live next door to wolves. There are reintroduced wolves quite close to where I live, but I am far from being in direct danger of a pack of wolves running down my street. However, I spend a great deal of time out in the wilderness, and could easily get attacked by any number of predators. That wildness is what makes the wilderness so beautiful and enjoyable. I wouldn't remove the risk of getting eaten by a mountain lion for all the world.

I'll end by returning to my original statement. If you don't want to get flooded out of house and home, don't build your house along the banks of the Mississippi. If you don't want to get accosted by nature, move someplace more domesticated. The rest of us, people who accept our fate when enjoying the wilderness, like things just the way they are.

(COMMENT: In my response to the person in question, I made it clear that I was not trying to be confrontary, despite some of the things I said.)

The article about the boy that was attacked by the wolf can be found HERE.