Yellowstone Wolves Revisited

Transferring a second group of wolves from Fort St. John, British Columbia to Yellowstone National Park and the Frank Church River of No Return National Wildlife Refuge in Idaho this January was a controversial move (See Latitudes, August 1995) that not only ignited sparks with ranchers near Yellowstone, but also with some Canadians, like the activist group Friends of the Wolf (FOW).

“Our wolves are not for sale or export,” says FOW coordinator Dennis Alvey, whose organization, located in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, offered a $5,000 reward to anyone freeing the pack of 37 gray wolves.

Yet despite the same tensions that followed the wolves’ first reintroduction in January 1995, the National Park Service believes it is now much closer to its goal of having 10 wolf packs in the Greater Yellowstone area by 2003; presently there are four packs.

“The public in Yellowstone has been very enthusiastic,” says Norman Bishop, the park’s resources interpreter. “The park was missing one of its premier predators. And over time, people will get used to the idea that wolves are part of the Yellowstone wildlife complex.”

Even the wolves’ fiercest defenders admit, however, that the reintroductions will cause both subtle and dramatic changes in the evolutionary cycle of other park animals’ populations, like the elk, bison, sheep and moose.