Predator's Restoration Planned for Southwest

Revised 12 November 1996

Here is an article that was published in the Northern Arizona University Lumberjack newspaper. Actually this is the article as it should have been published in the Lumberjack. I was not too pleased with their editing of my submission.

There is a war in the Southwest that has been raging for years. The weapons in this war aren't bombs and guns, they are pieces of paper, public meetings, and private conversations.

The battle is over wolves in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. "There are wolves in Arizona?" you ask. Not anymore, but with luck, the Mexican Wolf will soon be reintroduced into some of its old territory, which once ranged from northwest Arizona into Texas and down into Mexico. The Mexican Wolf has been extinct in the United States for 30 years.

The wolf was hunted and trapped heavily in the Southwest by ranchers and farmers fearing financial loss in the form of predation of livestock by wolves. However, studies in Canada and Minnesota have shown that predation rates by wolves are very low. The average wolf pack consists of approximately 12 individuals. Each pack can have territories of 400 square miles or larger.

Though the reintroduction and subsequent protection of the Mexican Wolf in the Southwest is required by law, and has been required for over 30 years, hunters and the cattle industry have used their influence to halt the process. Some hunters believe that wolves would reduce the amount of game that could be hunted. In truth, wolves increase productivity of game animals. Wolves generally hunt sick, old, and/or dying animals. When the wolves remove these animals, the herd as a whole is more healthy. The weakest animals of the species do not use up valuable resources that could be better put to use by a healthy individual.

An excellent example of the benefits of viable wolf populations comes from a reintroduction study on an island off of Canada. On this island, the moose population had a reproduction rate of approximately six percent. Wolves were reintroduced to the island, and within ten years the moose reproduction rate on the island skyrocketed to 38%, the highest reproduction rate for moose in North America.

The wolf is a natural part of the ecosystem. As wrong as it was to remove this fantastic species from the Southwest, it is just as wrong to not bring it back into the Southwest. Wolves would only kill very small amounts of livestock (ranchers would get compensation for any verified wolf kill anyway) and contrary to popular belief, wolves are very timid around humans. The wolf is not a blood thirsty man-eater.

Please support wolf reintroduction in the Southwest and elsewhere. The benefits are overwhelming, and the down-side insignificant.