Questions we have about wolves

Rik Dalvit/For the Capital Press

We’ve been covering the growth of the wolf population across the West since the first 66 were dropped off in Idaho and Yellowstone National Park in the mid-1990s. Since then, they have gone forth and multiplied. Some 755 wolves were documented in 129 packs last year in Idaho, Washington and Oregon.

As we’ve chronicled the return of the gray wolf, several questions come to mind. Some are rhetorical, and some aren’t. But we were just wondering:

• Why was the gray wolf reintroduced into the U.S.? Wildlife managers say upward of 50,000 gray wolves live in Canada, many just across the border from Idaho and Washington state. Wolves frequently wander back and forth between Canada and the U.S. They had already been spotted in Idaho before being reintroduced. A map of the wolf packs in Washington state shows most of them came from Canada. Left to their own devices, it appears the federal government wasn’t really needed.

• Where did OR-7’s new mate come from? Using a satellite collar, wildlife managers tracked OR-7, the male wolf that wandered from northeastern Oregon all the way to California and then back into Oregon. Then, all of the sudden, he ran into a female wolf in a place where no wolves were known to exist. Was she air-dropped there? Was she already there and wildlife managers didn’t know? Did he put an ad on Craig’s List?

• How many other wolves are in the region that wildlife managers don’t know about? With satellites, GPS, drones, remote cameras and all of the other technology that’s available, how can a 100-pound wolf go undetected?

• When wolves are showing up unannounced across the region, why are they protected? Managers seem to operate under the assumption that wolves are frail little things when all evidence contradicts that. Wolves go where the food is. If a flock of sheep or herd of cattle presents itself, many wolves are inclined to help themselves to lunch. Last year in Idaho, 39 cattle, 404 sheep, 4 dogs and a horse fell victim to wolves. In Washington state, wolves killed 24 sheep in just the last few weeks.

• Why don’t wildlife managers immediately remove problem wolves? Experts agree that only a few wolves kill livestock and should be removed as quickly as possible. Yet, in Washington state, managers have twice waited until the problems spiraled out of control before acting. And in the last case, they stopped after only one wolf was dispatched.

• Has there ever been an “endangered” species that was more robust and multiplied faster than the gray wolf? These critters seem fully capable of taking care of themselves.

• Considering all of the evidence, what is there to protect?

Recommended for you