Wolves create biodiversity. Contrary to the myths that have demonized them for centuries, wolves are essential to the lifecycle of their ecosystems. As a keystone species, they keep all aspects, from trees, to rivers, insects, mammals and birds in balance. Without them, things fall apart.
Evidence of the need for wolves in North American ecosystems has been well documented, and most famously in Yellowstone National Park where the species was once eradicated. In the absence of wolves, their prey – elk and deer – were free to overpopulate and overgraze, stunting new growth in the forest that led to riverbank erosion, species loss, and an overall ripple effect that degraded the local environment. But when reintroduced, the park was restored.
Knowing that wolves are crucial to the health of their ecosystems, ensuring their protection after centuries of slaughter is critical, especially now, as the federal government considers prematurely removing protection for gray wolves under the Endangered Species Act in the lower 48 states. The move would turn wolf management over to the states, likely subjecting wolves to hunting and trapping, which has already been demonstrated in states like Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho, where wolves have been delisted.
“These states are not managing their wolves like other wildlife,” the Wolf Conservation Center explains. “Instead, their goal is to aggressively drive wolf population numbers down to the bare minimum required by law.” From 2011 – 2013 when wolf management was turned over to 6 states, nearly two thousand wolves were killed. Thousands more have perished since in these states and others where protections were temporarily or permanently lifted.
Once roaming the U.S. in the millions, about 6,000 gray wolves remain in the wild in the contiguous United States today. While wolves have rebounded in some parts of the country due to ESA protections, they have only recovered a fraction of their former range, raising red flags for scientists and wildlife advocates who warn that removal from the ESA would have dire consequences for their long-term survival. If delisted, it is likely the gray wolf will never achieve a viable population in places like the Northeast and southern Rockies where there is suitable habitat for their return.
The Fish and Wildlife Service’s open comment period on the proposal to remove wolves from the Endangered Species Act ends on July 15th. If you care about wolves, this is the moment to make your voice heard, ensuring that we, and future generations, can continue to admire this species as a national treasure, along with the benefits they bring to our planet’s ecology.
To comment on the proposal directly visit this link, or comment via the Wolf Conservation Center here. We invite you to use language from this article to make your case for protecting wolves, or to use the Wolf Conservation Center’s ‘ESA Talking Points to Guide Your Words.’ You can further the fight for wolves by sharing this article and spreading the word.
To learn more about the human-wolf conflict, check out Outside Magazine’s ‘Wolves and the Endangered Species Act, an Explainer.’