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Naturalist Norm Bishop Advocates for Wyoming Wolves

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Norman Bishop, a Montana resident, worked for 36 years for the National Park Service, which included leading and supporting wolf restoration interpretation in Yellowstone National Park from 1985 to 1997. He is also a board member of the Wolf Recovery Foundation. He was a reviewer of the 1990 and 1992 reports to Congress, “Wolves for Yellowstone?” and contributed to the 1994 Environmental Impact Statement, “The Reintroduction of Gray Wolves to Yellowstone National Park and Central Idaho. Norm is also International Wolf Center field representative for the Greater Yellowstone region, board member of Wild Things Unlimited, and co-chair of the Gallatin-Park County chapter of Montana Conservation Voters.

Norm has graciously given us permission to share his public comment re: Wyoming’s proposed wolf hunting proposal for 2013.  It serves as a great resource from which we all can learn from an expert who worked for many years in wolf recovery:

“Proposed Chapter 47 – Gray Wolf Hunting Seasons are unacceptable to me because they: 1) do not protect against overkill of wolves living primarily in Yellowstone National Park; 2) may disrupt the longest ongoing elk/wolf research program in the world, that provides a control against which exploited populations can be compared; 3) ignore the findings of Rutledge et al (2010) who wrote, “Legal and illegal killing of animals near park borders can significantly increase the threat of extirpation for populations living within ecological reserves, especially for wide-ranging large carnivores that regularly travel into unprotected areas.”  And, “Our results indicate that even in a relatively large protected area, human harvesting outside park boundaries can affect evolutionarily important social patterns within protected areas.”   4) abrogate the purpose of the park, defined in the 1916 Organic Act, “to conserve…the wildlife…and to provide for the enjoyment of the same…unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”  It is impossible for the park to conserve natural processes if one of the keystone players is being picked off at the boundaries.  Further, killing park wolves has a chilling effect on the tourism associated with wolf viewing in the park that generates $35 million in net annual economic benefits to the surrounding counties.  It makes no sense to me to allow a hunter to pay a few bucks to kill a wolf whose collaring alone cost $3,000, and whose value to ongoing research is immeasurable.  I appreciate that no hunting is proposed for the Rockefeller Parkway.  

Setting seasons and limits just to prevent relisting of Wyoming wolves is inadequate.  Instead, as a 17-year Wyoming resident hunter of antelope, deer elk, and moose (1980-97), I would like to see wolves performing their strongly interactive natural function as top predator and sanitarian in areas of low conflict with livestock.  I would hope, too, that Wyoming wolves might eventually send dispersers to my home state of Colorado.

We should also consider the services that wolves provide, that can avert   epidemics of wildlife diseases.  Bruce L. Smith, in his 2012 book, Where Elk Roam, warns us of the danger of concentrating elk on feed grounds, because of two serious diseases: brucellosis and chronic wasting disease (CWD).  Noting that Wisconsin has spent $27 million depopulating its whitetail deer to curb CWD (and no CWD has been detected where wolves live), he traces the inexorable march of CWD across Wyoming. “Recent modeling suggests wolf predation may suppress CWD emergence in deer.” 

Wolves and other large carnivores are essential to the health of the ecosystems on which our game animals and we depend.  Wolves have been shown to be capable of reducing or eliminating the spread of brucellosis and chronic wasting disease (Hobbs 2006, Wild et al 2011), in part by reducing density and group sizes of elk and deer. Wild et al concluded, “We suggest that as CWD distribution and wolf range overlap in the future, wolf predation may suppress disease emergence or limit prevalence.” Cross et al (2010) wrote, “(T)he data suggest that enhanced elk-to-elk transmission in free-ranging populations may be occurring due to larger winter elk aggregations. Elk populations inside and outside of the GYE that traditionally did not maintain brucellosis may now be at risk due to recent population increases.” 

We risk losing wolves’ essential ecosystem services by continually inventing new ways to reduce their numbers to a socially-acceptable minimum. The goal of wolf management might better be to establish ecologically effective populations of wolves (Lee et al. 2012) wherever the absence of conflicts with livestock make that feasible.

To inform managers of recovering wolf populations about the impacts of the loss of breeders, Brainerd et al (2006) pooled data from 134 cases of breeder loss on 148 territorial breeding wolves.  They assessed effects on pup survival, reproduction, and territorial social groups.  The number of adult-sized wolves remaining after breeder loss, along with pup age, had the greatest influence on pup survival. To minimize negative impacts on recolonizing wolf populations, the authors recommended that managers limit lethal control to solitary individuals or territorial pairs. 

Aldo Leopold (1944) recognized that Yellowstone National Park was not large enough by itself to conserve a wolf population.  In his review of Young and Goldman’s The Wolves of North America, he took the authors to task for asserting, “There still remain…some areas of considerable size in which…(wolves) may be allowed to continue their existence without molestation.”  But then he asked, “Where are these areas?  Probably every reasonable ecologist will agree that some of them should lie in the  larger national parks and wilderness areas; for instance, the Yellowstone and its adjacent national forests.”  

References cited 

Brainerd, S. M., Andren, H., Bangs, E. E., Bradley, E. H., Fontaine, J. A., Hall, W., Iliopoulos, Y., Jimenez, M. D., Jozwiak, E. A., Liberg, O., Mack, C. M., Meier, T. J., Niemeyer, C. C., Pedersen, H. C., Sand, H., Schultz, R. N., Smith, D. W., Wabakken, P. and Wydeven, A. P. (2008), The Effects of Breeder Loss on Wolves. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 72: 89–98. doi: 10.2193/2006-305.

Cross P. C.,  E. K. Cole,  A. P. Dobson,  W. H. Edwards,  K. L. Hamlin,  G. Luikart,  A. D. Middleton, B. M. Scurlock, and P. J. White.  2010. Probable causes of increasing brucellosis in free-ranging elk of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.  Ecological Applications, 20(1):278–288.

Hobbs, N. Thompson.  4/12/2006.  A Model Analysis of Effects of Wolf Predation on Prevalence of Chronic Wasting Disease in Elk Populations of Rocky Mountain National Park.  Natural Resources Ecology Lab., CSU.

Lee, Yohan, Jane L. Harrison, Cristina Eisenberg, Byungdoo Lee.  2012.  Modeling Biodiversity Benefits and External Costs from a

Keystone Predator Reintroduction Policy.  J. Mt. Sci. (2012) 9: 385–394   DOI: 10.1007 s11629-009-2246-1.

Leopold, Aldo.  1944.  Review of The Wolves of North America.  Journal of Forestry 42(12):928-929.

Rutledge, Linda Y.,  Brent R. Patterson, Kenneth J. Mills, Karen M. Loveless, Dennis L. Murray, Bradley N. White.  2010.  Protection from harvesting restores the natural social structure of eastern wolf packs.  Biological Conservation 143(1):332-339.

Smith, Bruce L.  2012.  Where Elk Roam – Conservation and Biopolitics of our National Elk Herd.  Lions Press. 266 pages.

Wild, M.A., N.T. Hobbs, M.S. Graham, and M.W. Miller.  2011.  “The role of predation in disease control: A comparison of selective and non-selective removal of prion diseases in deer.”  Journal of Wildlife Diseases 47(1):78-93.



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