Big, bad wolves

After years under close watch, the gray wolf has been taken off the endangered species list to resume its role in the ecosystem.

After years under close watch, the gray wolf has been taken off the endangered species list to resume its role in the ecosystem. However, with its newfound security, the gray wolf has a new world of dangers—it now must prepare itself for open hunting season.

The U.S. government ruled last month that gray wolves would formally be removed from protection under the Endangered Species Act. Approximately 1,300 wolves have been taken off the list in five of the Rocky Mountain states, with plans to expand the bill to other bordering states soon.

Gray wolves were first put under Endangered Species protection in 1974 when the wolf population had dwindled to near extinction in the U.S. It wasn’t until 1995 that an effort was made to help recover their species by transplanting 66 gray wolves from Canada to areas near Yellow Stone National Park. Over the years, the wolf population has multiplied and has fortunately regained its vital presence in the Rocky Mountain ecosystem.

Too bad good things can’t last forever. It was inevitable that hunting aficionados would take notice of their resurgence too. Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar tried to justify the decision by publicly announcing that they were removed from the endangered list because they have again reached “healthy levels.”

“Healthy levels” is far from a decent rationalization. Try looking at a situation logically instead of selfishly. If your former alcoholic friend makes it a few months sober, you don’t celebrate with a night out of binge drinking. If your out-of-shape uncle manages to lower his cholesterol back to healthy levels, you don’t buy him a $50 gift certificate to McDonalds. If your accidental fork wound finally heals over, you don’t stab yourself with a fork again.

It’s entirely frustrating that people could be so erratic as to start hunting something that has so recently made its debut back into the animal kingdom.

The introduction of gray wolves back into their native U.S. habitats has aided in a number of environmental recoveries. Their presence alone has lowered the elk population back to a level at which much of the landscape has been able to recover from years of overgrazing. Not to mention both beaver and red fox populations have simultaneously recovered, since the gray wolf assists in displacing coyotes from the food chain.

The effect of this species’ presence and absence on the American landscape spread far and wide. It is evident that as far as the ecosystem’s chain goes, the gray wolf is a rather significant link. We have learned what the removal of this species can dramatically do, but it seems that Americans are having difficulty learning from history on this one.

The decision to allow hunting of the gray wolf was not made on the grounds that controlling the population is now pertinent or necessary, but rather it was that enough smaller political groups pushed for their reintroduction to the hunting list. There are arguments that since their reintroduction, gray wolves have become a nuisance to cattle ranches. Even though farmers have been reimbursed for their monetary loses of lowered livestock numbers, there is still hostility against the mere existence of the wolves.

Other supporters of the bill lay claim that the wolves are greatly lowering the local elk population. However, once one digs a little deeper it becomes evident that they are not concerned for the sake of the healthy elk population, but are concerned because the gray wolves take part in decreasing the amount of these big game animals during hunting season.

Who’s to say if this ruling will have a massive negative effect on the protection of other recovering endangered species. After all, this is the first time in history that the U.S. Congress has taken part in the removal of an endangered animal. If my prediction is right, trigger-happy hunters around America will make no hesitation to petition for other species to be taken off the list as well. It makes me wonder when we will learn that extinction is very permanent. We can only push one species so far, so many times before it will be eradicated forever. ?