Park Service has treated wolves differently

Submitted by Steve Torrey
Posted 10/29/19

Dear Editor:

I am writing this for the sake of keeping the record straight regarding the Oct. 15 article, “Defending Wolves.” Dr. Doug Smith, PhD, Yellowstone wildlife biologist, …

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Park Service has treated wolves differently


Dear Editor:

I am writing this for the sake of keeping the record straight regarding the Oct. 15 article, “Defending Wolves.” Dr. Doug Smith, PhD, Yellowstone wildlife biologist, thinks if local folks just had a “worldview,” people and wolves would “coexist” to the point wolves would be featured in Cody’s Fourth of July Parade. The “reintroduction” of wolves to Yellowstone, according to Dr. Smith, was correcting a “long-standing wrong.” The long-standing wrong in this case is the misuse of the word reintroduction, as wolves in Yellowstone were never introduced in the first place. Native, existing wolves in Yellowstone were systematically exterminated in the first half of the 20th century with the National Park Service leading the charge — that is, Yellowstone managers.

Sightings of wolves in the years prior to the 1995 introduction were poo-pooed and never taken seriously by government authorities, because plans for “reintroduction” were already in the works, which would bring endless research, grant monies and a whole new big government program to Yellowstone. A wolf was shot dead in Thorofare in 1992 and delivered to the doorstep of Yellowstone’s Fox Park ranger patrol cabin — a slight tidbit left out of the “Defending Wolves” article. The “Defending Wolves” article states: “Even if the species wasn’t reintroduced, Smith believes they would have eventually moved back into the area.” Really? This coming from the Ph.D himself! Who was defending the wolves in their Alberta home range during the abduction years?

One item in the article is correct: Dr. Smith states, “… they [wolves] could be managed like other wildlife … was I ever wrong.” Yes, you were.

Wolves have never been managed like any other wildlife. Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley, once a quiet out-of-the-way place, was transformed into a major destination thanks to a show-and-tell park policy of leading people to wolves via radio telemetry and hand-held two-way radios. This of course led to myriad negative impacts on park resources, such as trampling roadside vegetation, hogging and reserving parking spaces for friends, off-road parking, parking in the road on blind curves and hills, and, at first, not being made to move by park rangers. The Wild West sort of speak. Wolf jams were managed completely different from bear jams at the time, when rangers made you move your car.

Over the years, visitors in-the-know with the walkie-talkies in communication with the person or persons with the radio tracking devices of collared wolves would not necessarily divulge wolf pack locations to just anyone, particularly photographers. The so-called wolfers — the ones with a conspicuous antenna on their car, and always a spotting scope — had the run of Lamar Valley and really thought of it as their own private preserve. No other species or any other part of the park has been managed in this manner. For instance, there is/was no bear guru with radio telemetry leading people to bears. Yes, under Dr. Smith, wolves have been managed differently — very differently, in terms of public access to public land. Recently, the park has worked to break up the wolfers’ grip.

Contemporary America is experiencing an equality revolution in perpetuity, various gender identities by the score and vegans galore. To some, a worldview long overdue. Maybe Dr. Smith’s next book should consist of searching for similar relationships among wolves and people in an ever-evolving world society. Suggested working title: Wolves — Coexisting with a Patriarchal Society of Heterosexual Meateaters.

Dr. Smith opines, “…wolves aren’t that bad.”

Steve Torrey



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