Wolves in Wyoming

October 2014

Christopher Howe

Monday 10 June 2013. I get up early and walk up the gentle slope of Lunch Tree Hill, to the north of Jackson Lake Lodge, Wyoming. Barely three hundred metres from the lodge the hill flattens out providing spectacular views over the aspen forests to the east and north, and the sagebrush, cottonwood and willow flats to the west, in front of Jackson Lake itself. Several miles away to the west, beyond the lake — although in the clear mountain air I felt like I could reach out and touch them — are the magnificent Grand Teton mountains. It is light but the sun has not yet broken the horizon. When it does, a few minutes later, the tips of the snowy peaks of the Tetons glow red as they catch the first light from the east. As the sun rises the colour spreads quickly down the upper slopes to the tree line, as if gravity had inverted and they were being filled from the top with a red liquid. Ten minutes later the snow is white and the trees green as the full strength of daylight takes effect.

On the plateau at the top of the Lunch Tree Hill, set back from the path, is a memorial to John D Rockefeller Jr., a passionate supporter of the movement to protect America’s wilderness. He took a particular interest in this valley, known as Jackson Hole, working with one of the USA’s leading conservationists in the 1930s, Horace Albright. Rockefeller tried various ways to protect the valley and the Tetons, including a secret scheme to buy up land and then hand it over to the government. Although that failed, he is honoured today for his and his family’s continued efforts and personal contributions, including donating land and money, and lobbying the government, to protecting wildlife and wild places throughout the USA.

As the name suggests, Rockefeller used to eat his lunch on this hill. Although he had a passion for nature it seems unusual there are no records of him hunting and killing wolves, because it was common in the early years of the 20th century for environmentalists, politicians and scientists — Teddy Roosevelt, Ernest Thompson Seton, Willian Hornaday — to think the wolf undesirable (1). Officials from the US Fish & Wildlife Service called them, ‘a menace to human life.’(2)

It was this attitude that led to the official disappearance of the wolf from the Yellowstone National Park in 1926, and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in 1943.

*

Surrounded by sage brush on Lunch Tree Hill, I use my binoculars to look out towards Jackson Lake. As I am scanning for wildlife a guide appears from the scrub to the north, the opposite direction to the lodge where I started my walk, with a client. He has two cans of bear spray hooked on his belt, one on each side.

‘Be careful,’ he says.

I’m in sight of the lodge, on a well formed path, with good visibility all around.

‘Really?’ I say.

‘Big grizzly with cubs out here just an hour ago,’ he says. ‘You got your bear spray with you?’

I admit I haven’t. I don’t admit that I don’t know what bear spray is. When he asks me if I am carrying food I confess I have a muesli bar in my bag. There are plenty of signs which say, No Food. Make Noise. Don’t walk alone. Don’t run. Carry bear spray. I can’t pretend I haven’t seen them. As if he can tell I’m ignorant about bear spray, he explains how it is a mix of oil and pepper, and should be used only as a last resort. When the bear charges, assuming all else has failed (backing away slowly, eyes down, hands up, quietly and soothingly saying, ‘Hey Mr Bear, all friendly here, no problem, just go about your business,’) you wait until the bear is just a metre or so away, and then spray it in the eyes. You should never, ever run. A bear can run faster than Usain Bolt, and keep going at that speed for several minutes.

‘Best tag along with us back to the lodge,’ he says, and so I follow him and his client back down the slope.

Later I look at the map of the park I bought in the lodge’s shop. There’s a panel on the side which says, ‘The Grand Tetons, Yellowstone and the John D Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway are wild areas.’ It goes on to describe in detail what to do if you meet a bear. It says you must not throw food towards the bear in the hope of distracting it. If you do, you will give yourself a chance of escape but the bear will get a taste for human food and start to seek it out. Such behaviour not only puts other people in danger, as the bear will be attracted to their campsites, but will inevitably end up with the bear being shot by the Parks service. If the bear has cubs, they will die as well, of hunger. It ends by saying if you are not willing to accept both the dangers and the responsibilities then perhaps hiking in bear country in summer is not for you.

Wolves, it says, are not as dangerous as bears, but you should still be careful.

*

Wyoming is the tenth largest state in the USA, at a quarter of a million square kilometres. It has a population density of 2.3 people per square kilometre. Only Alaska is less densely populated. It is home to the iconic landscapes of westerns and 1960s TV shows — the Great Plains, The Rocky Mountains, the High Chapparal — and perhaps the most famous landmark of all, the geyser in Yellowstone National Park known as Old Faithful.

Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park (the world’s oldest National Park, established on 1 March 1872), and the John D Rockefeller Memorial Parkway that bridges the sixteen kilometre gap between them, together with the National Elk Refuge and the surrounding national and state forests, make up the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. At around 7,300,000 hectares, it includes forests, lakes, mountains, wetlands and rivers and is one of the largest intact temperate ecosystems on earth.

The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is home all the big American animals — black and grizzly bears, bison, pronghorn, elk, moose, beaver, lynx, mountain lion, and bighorn sheep.

And, although they were officially absent for over half a century, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is home to the gray wolf.

*

The vast expanse of grassland, marsh, sage brush, and willow in front of Jackson Lake Lodge is off limits to hikers in the summer months because of the wildlife. This is the time of year when bears emerge from hibernation, moose and elk give birth, and everything is on the move. This is not a time of year to be walking on trails through willow thickets where you might surprise a bear around the next corner.

Accommodation at Jackson Lake lodge consists mostly of old-fashioned, basic cabins. The main building is more dramatic with its high-ceilinged central atrium and 180 degree views. Although it is packed with summer visitors I find it reassuringly down to earth. The coffee is percolated, the food is below-average mass-catered hotel fare with an absence of fresh vegetables, and the people extraordinarily friendly.

The Snake River flows from the east, from the continental divide, and south down Jackson Hole valley past the town of Jackson, with its uneasy mix of temporary tourists and long time residents. Tourists come for the skiing in the winter — the chairlifts were like spider’s webs on the bare slopes when I was there in June — and wildlife and scenery in the summer.

One evening I catch the hotel shuttle bus into Jackson with a group of colleagues. There are plenty of options listed on the flyer the driver hands out, but there’s only one place I’m going. Jackson has a rodeo with all the side events as well as the main attractions of bucking broncos and bulls. There are kids chasing a sheep to see who can be first to pull off the bright blue ribbon, rodeo clowns, full pelt horse races for the girls and baby broncos for the boys. Our minder for the evening is Martha Kauffman, Great Plains Project Manager for the World Wildlife Fund. She buys us cans of Snake River Brewing Company pale ale and tells tales of riding horses, getting to know the indigenous peoples of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, and how she has the job of her dreams.

Afterwards I buy Martha a beer at the Snake River Brewing Company, just a short walk away from the rodeo arena, while our colleagues turn into souvenir hunters and head to the shops for everything from t-shirts and playing cards to full dude-ranch outfits — big-buckled belts, ten gallon hats, and tooled cowboy boots.

No-one mentions wolves the whole evening, although on the bus on the way back to the lodge at midnight I pick up a leaflet describing wildlife watching tours, in which wolf watching features prominently.

The Tetons and the Snake River by Ansel Adams, 1941 — Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia

*

Jackson Lake is high, at just over 2,000m. Yellowstone is slightly higher, with an average altitude of 2,400m. Sagebrush scrub, grasslands and aspen forests dominate most of this cold, dry landscape and, because of the harsh weather that comes with the altitude, general visitor access is restricted to a brief window between May and September. Outside these months you can visit Yellowstone, but you’ll need a snowmobile and some very warm clothes.

Yellowstone is the place everyone has heard of and everyone wants to see, so we take a day trip. At just under 900,000 hectares, with roads providing access throughout, the park is smaller and more accessible than I imagined. It feels like you could, if you wanted, see almost everything without leaving your vehicle. Fiordland National Park in New Zealand is, in contrast, 1,250,000 hectares with vast areas out of reach of even the most dedicated tourists.

Next to the world-famous geyser and the thousands of people who have walked just a few paces from their vehicles to see the fountain of water and steam, Old Faithful Lodge is a huge three storey wooden-framed building with heaters blasting and outlets selling mugs of hot coffee and chocolate. Although it is mid-June, almost the height of summer, it snows, and I understand why the lodge only ever opens for a few months of the year. I couldn’t help thinking of the long winter when this grand building would be shuttered and closed, with only a caretaker to keep the furnaces alight and prevent it from freezing solid.

Now though, it is the height of the summer season. Between May and September the roads throughout the Greater Yellowstone region are are busy with cars, trucks and huge recreational vehicles (known as RVs,) the airport at Jackson buzzes with domestic flights arriving and leaving, and thousands of people from all over the USA find work as bus drivers, cleaners, chefs, dude ranch hands, and adventure and nature guides.

In North America the tipping culture is deeply ingrained, and there’s an upside to that in that everyone — our drivers, our guides, our hotel staff — seem eager to help. Perhaps they are genuinely interested, or perhaps they are thinking of their tips. Either way, the effect is the same. Our guides in particular, as you might expect, are a constant source of interesting and insightful information, always ready to answer even the most obvious questions, hand out snacks and water, or line up a spotting scope.

On a day trip to Yellowstone, on a half-day rafting trip down the Snake River, and out to private land south of Grand Teton National Park to look for wolves from the Lower Gros Ventre pack, our guides lift the whole experience to an unexpected level.

This is big and wild country and so it goes without saying that there are dangers. But it is summer, and it is America. There are well maintained roads, good cellphone coverage, and short walks from cabins to buses and back. It doesn’t feel dangerous. Our guides, however, carry bear spray and radios and first aid kits, and they take the risks very seriously. Even when we’re the ninth bus in line to stop to see bears across the river, and there must be a hundred people snapping photographs, still they are alert and cautious and will not let anyone move more than a few metres away from the vehicle.

We don’t see wolves in Yellowstone, but our guides are more than happy to get into a big debate about the effect their re-introduction has had on the ecosystem. The popular story, reinforced by beautifully shot and celebrity-narrated videos and National Geographic documentaries (3),(4), is that bringing wolves back into Yellowstone has restored the entire ecosystem to a more natural state. By predating elk, the story goes, aspen have regenerated and this has led to a changed dynamic that encompasses everything from the return of the beaver to more natural rivers.

The way predators and prey interact in an ecosystem in a hierarchical way is a well-established and understood ecological principle, and the way a top predator like the wolf can affect all the animals and plants below it in the hierarchy — known as a ‘trophic cascade’ — is uncontroversial. It’s the reason the story about the effect wolves have had on Yellowstone’s ecosystem has become so quickly accepted — it’s a great story, and it fits what we know about ecology. The truth, as always, may be more complicated. It’s not certain that trophic cascades work in all situations, and a study by Kaufmann et al. in 2010 shows it is far from clear whether the re-introduction of the wolf into Yellowstone has caused the effects many expected or, perhaps, wanted to see (5),(6). In particular there is debate about whether wolves preying on elk has a significant enough effect on their behaviour, and the degree to which they browse aspen seedlings, to allow aspen forests to regenerate. Kauffman’s study suggests that the length of time wolves were absent was long enough for the ecosystem to change so substantially that their introduction simply can’t change it back.

This is clearly a debate that will go on, and our guides are happy to keep discussing it, but it seems everyone on this bus agrees that whatever the actual effects, having wolves back in Yellowstone is a good thing. But then, we are an audience of wildlife lovers on a nature watching field trip.

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Carrying large spotting scopes we walk across dry, dusty grassland and up and over a small ridge, an hour before dusk. We are looking for gray wolves, most likely members of the Lower Gros Ventre pack. Several times I think I see movement behind a patch of scrub, but no-one else sees it. Staring down a scope for a couple of hours is guaranteed to make you see things, even when they’re not there. We keep looking until night falls, and a silver sliver of new moon shines overhead, but we don’t see any wolves.

Nearly a year later, in April 2014, the annual report of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department reveals they had killed eleven wolves from the Lower Gros Ventre pack in May 2013, leaving just two animals alive (7),(8), a month before our visit.

Wolves in the Greater Yellowstone area were hunted in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries until their populations officially reached zero. The process is known as extirpation, as the species is not extinct, just absent from the area in question. Official records say that wolves were gone from Yellowstone National Park by 1926, and the last wolf officially recorded as killed in the greater Yellowstone region was on the Wind River Reservation in 1943. However there have been many unofficial wolf sightings over the years, described by Paul Schullery in his book ‘The Yellowstone Wolf’ in 1996 (9), so it is unlikely wolves ever really disappeared.

Calls for re-introduction of the wolf followed almost immediately after the extirpation of wolves in the Greater Yellowstone area, and began to be considered seriously in the 1960s and 1970s. The Endangered Species Act in 1973 made it obligatory for the US Fish and Wildlife Service — a federal government agency — to develop recovery plans for any species classified as endangered, which the gray wolf had been since 1967. The Act also requires the US Fish and Wildife Service to hand over management to state authorities once a species is no longer endangered, subject to a satisfactory management regime being agreed between the federal and state agencies.

In 1987, after an earlier unsuccessful attempt, a Yellowstone wolf recovery plan, as required by the Endangered Species Act, was accepted by federal and state authorities as part of the recovery of the overall Northern Rocky Mountain population of gray wolves. In 1995 and 1996 a total of 31 wolves from Canada were introduced into the park, although it was controversial and there were last minute attempts by residents of Wyoming to stop the re-introduction. Arrangements were put in place to compensate ranchers if they lost livestock to wolves, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as the Wyoming State Game and Fish Department, were allowed to shoot wolves known to be attacking cattle.

Wolves breed quickly and, as expected, the Wyoming wolf population grew rapidly and soon spread out of the park into the Greater Yellowstone area. By December 2013 there were at least 306 wolves in 43 packs throughout Wyoming. The map below shows the distribution and names of the packs.

Wyoming wolf packs in 2013

According to the recovery plan, once wolves in Wyoming reached a certain status — agreed in the plan to be 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs — they would be de-listed as endangered species in the state. The Wyoming State Game and Fish Department would then take over the management of wolves outside federal (i.e. National Parks) and tribal (i.e. Indian Reservation) lands.

The Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf populations were progressively delisted as an endangered species in Montana, Idaho, and parts of Oregon, Washington and Utah from 2009 onwards, as their numbers grew, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service agreed management regimes with state authorities and handed over responsibility.

Finally, in August 2012, the gray wolf was delisted in Wyoming and management was transferred to Wyoming state[10]. The official reason this delisting was so much later than the other states was because the US Fish and Wildlife Service had concerns that Wyoming State’s proposed management regime would not ensure the gray wolf remained off the endangered list. It is also likely that pressure from environmental groups made it politically difficult for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the events that followed over the next two years bear this out.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service’s ‘Mexican and Gray Wolf Proposals Frequently Asked Questions’ page (11) from 2012, when management was handed back to the state, manages to express both confidence and uncertainty about the future of wolves in Wyoming.

‘Although we do not expect it will ever be necessary, as with all recovered species, we may consider relisting, and even emergency relisting, if the available data demonstrates such an action is necessary.’ (page 2)

And, further down the page,

‘We are confident in the ability of state and tribal wildlife agencies to successfully manage wolf populations. Although we do not expect it will ever be necessary, we could consider relisting, and even emergency relisting, if the available data demonstrates such an action is necessary.’

In the same notice by the US Fish and Wildlife Service announcing the transfer of management to the State of Wyoming, way down the page, we are told that the state has already authorised a ‘harvest’ of 52 wolves, and that while no hunting will be allowed in the National Elk Refuge, the John D Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway, and the Wind River Reservation, this may change in the future, implying that even the regulations for who manages federal land are up for debate.

I can’t help but wonder how the staff of the US Fish and Wildlife Service felt, having worked so hard to re-introduce wolves, and then seeing them recover so successfully, at having to hand over management to a state authority that appeared to be waiting, rifles at the ready, to start killing them again.

The feelings of Wyomingites, as residents of the state are known, were made clear in a piece of research published a few months after the transfer of responsibility for wolf management, in November 2012, by the University of Wyoming (12). Just less than half agreed with the re-introduction of wolves, and more than half thought the re-introduction had had negative effects. 80% agreed with allowing hunting of wolves in the state.

There are hundreds of research papers, articles and opinion pieces about wolves in Wyoming. I can imagine how hard it is for state and federal officials to keep up with all this material, and make sense of it, while also dealing with the day to day responsibilities of their agencies. What is clear, though, is the divide between the state agency — the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which in 2012 was thinking very differently about wolves compared to its published views about them being a menace to human life earlier in the century — and the state agency, the Wyoming State Game and Fish Service. It seems that national and international environmental campaigners, and federal legislators, are pro-wolf, and are lined up behind the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and local ranchers and elected officials are, as you might expect, anti-wolf and are backing the Wyoming State Game and Fish Service.

What took me by surprise, writing this article, was just how dramatically those tensions had played out since my visit in May 2013 and, more significantly, since the publication of the Wyoming State Game and Fish Service’s 2013 report in April 2014.

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The Snake River in June is grey and cold, full of snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains and the Tetons. Our guide, Luke, explains what’s about to happen. We’ll go in here, he says, at Deadman’s Bar, and exit at Moose, near the Grand Teton National Park headquarters. It’s the easiest part of the river, just a gentle float downstream really. At least Luke makes it look that way, his single long paddle effortlessly manoeuvring us around fallen trees and shallows.

I ask him why this place is called Deadman’s Bar. He tells of a grubstake — a chancer who invests in a claim by providing food and shelter for the prospectors — who was taken for a ride by a gold digger. He killed the man, weighted him down, and threw him in the river. But the river was high, like it is now, and he didn’t realise there was a shallow bar. When summer came the body was found, and the grubstake arrested. No-one knows why he was let go or where he went afterwards but, because his was the first ever criminal trial in the state, it established the rule of law in Wyoming and set the state on the path to formal recognition by the Union, as having a judge and a court was a prerequisite for such recognition. At least that’s the tale Luke spins as he guides us out onto the water.

I’ve started something, and Luke can’t stop with his stories. Its raining, and I feel slightly precarious perched on the edge of the raft, so I can’t get my notebook out and write them down. Instead I have to remember what I can. The naming of the Snake River, for example. When settlers first made contact with the local people, the Shoshone, and asked their name, the Shoshone made wavy signs with their hands. They meant they were basket weavers, but the settlers thought they meant snakes. According to Luke the Shoshone are still upset about it.

What about wolves, I ask.

Luke is happy to oblige. The Shoshone regard the wolf as a creator and god, and a protector, called Esa. Later on, when I’m researching this story, I get confused. ESA is the acronym for Endangered Species Act, the statute that allows for re-introduction of wolves and their listing and de-listing. I stare at the Wildlife Service webpage, trying to work it out.

Esa’s younger brother is the coyote, a trickster. One way of looking at it is to see the removal of wolves and the removal of the Shoshone from their lands by the settlers as all part of the same process of colonisation.

Today the Shoshone share the Wind River Reservation in the east of Wyoming with the Arapaho. They have their own Wolf Management Plan (13) and, as you might expect, are more respectful of the species than the general population of Wyoming, as Rebecca Watters, an intern with the Northern Rockies Conservation Co-operative, found in 2006 (14). Despite this respect, she admits in her report that not everyone on Wind River, especially livestock owners, supports wild wolf populations.

*

On 23 September 2014, Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson, in Washington DC, made a ruling which put control of the management of Wyoming’s wolves back in the hands of the federal government, namely the US Fish and Wildlife Service which had, only two years earlier handed over management to Wyoming state (15). Judge Jackson said that while wolf populations weren’t in danger, or threatened by Wyoming State’s decision to label it a predator that could be shot throughout 80% of the state’s land area, the management regime was ‘inadequate and unenforceable and that federal officials (the US Fish and Wildlife Service) were “arbitrary and capricious” in accepting it.’ This was the management regime that almost destroyed the Lower Gros Ventre pack in May 2013.

Five years earlier, in 2009, Jesse Alderman in the Boston College Law Review had argued that the delisting of wolves outside Wyoming, but not in the Greater Yellowstone Area, was unlawful (16). The processes and challenges are complex, but his argument hinges on the validity of excluding some parts of the same overall wolf population from delisting, and the inadequate evidence that wolves exhibited sufficient ‘connectivity’ between the Wyoming packs and the rest of the Northern Rocky Mountain wolves.

Alderman doesn’t mention it in the article, but he surely must have been aware of a forthcoming publication in December 2009 by Bradley et al.(17) of a paper specifically referring to genetic connectivity. The language is identical. Alderman also refers to a court case, Defenders of Wildlife vs. Hall from 2008. Defenders of Wildlife was a group of environmental organisations challenging the US Fish and Wildlife’s decisions to start delisting the gray wolf.

The same environmental groups which took that case to court in 2008 also took the case to Judge Jackson in 2013, and Judge Jackson used the same language as was used in 2008: the Fish and Wildlife Service’s actions were ‘arbitrary and capricious.’ The US Fish and Wildlife Service appears caught in the middle of well-funded environmental activists and well-meaning federal legislators on the one hand, and their obligations to US states on the other. It seems slightly perverse that the federal agency was taken to court because they had failed in their responsibilities, but that the desired outcome of the case was that management of the gray wolf be returned to that agency, but that is what the ‘Defenders of Wildlife’ coalition wanted, and that is what they got with Judge Jackson’s decision.

The response from Wyoming’s congress representative to Judge Jackson’s decision was unequivocal. Representative Cynthia Lummis’ response was to say that state legislation was now her only recourse. She claimed the state had done everything the Fish and Wildlife Service had required of them. Montana and Idaho had enacted state legislation preventing the federal government from revisiting the delisting decisions for their states, and now Wyoming would follow suit (18)

It is the nature of the system of government in the United States that for many matters, states can decide things for themselves. In the case of the listing and delisting of the gray wolf, if Wyoming state wants to declassify the gray wolf as endangered it can pass legislation that will to allow it to do so, irrespective of any federal government ruling. Then Wyoming will be free to manage the gray wolf, on state land, any way it chooses.

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The gray wolf, also known as the timber wolf, true wolf or western wolf, Canis lupus, is an remarkable creature. In the Americas it can live as far north as Alaska, and as far south as Mexico, and it’s natural distribution includes most of the northern hemisphere, including north Africa, Russia, India and China.

Only humans and tigers pose a threat to gray wolves, and there are only about 3,000 tigers left on Earth. An individual wolf’s natural range is 500km2 to 1300km2 — a huge area. Living in packs of two to twelve animals, only the dominant male and female mate, and as soon as the pack exceeds the numbers its territory can accommodate, which it does quickly as it breeds every year, young — or old — wolves are cast out to find new packs or new territories.

The gray wolf is a carnivore, preying on almost anything that moves, including livestock. When millions of buffalo, pronghorn, elk and other prey species roamed the American west, wolves were limited only by physical space. Despite the huge reduction in the numbers of those animals, that appears to remain true today. Even in a sparsely populated state like Wyoming, it is people that constrain the wolf.

Standing right behind the complex timeline of the gray wolf in Wyoming, its extirpation, its re-introduction, its delisting and relisting, are people. There are environmental groups, on the ground and in the courts. There are scientists, with radio tracking collars and survey transects. There are tourists and nature guides, with binoculars, first aid kits and bear spray on their belts. There are Shoshone and Arapaho on Wind River Reservation wrestling with respect for their god protector, Esa, and fear for their livestock. There are federal judges and officials, and state judges and officials, juggling their personal beliefs, the law, and their chances of re-election. There are hunters, addicted to the thrill of the chase and kill, dismayed by Judge Jackson’s decision (19). And there are ranchers, with deeply held fears, and livelihoods and livestock to protect.

All these people are passionate — one way or another — about the gray wolf, and its future in Wyoming. In October 2014 it is unclear what that future might be.

Will the State of Wyoming legislate to allow it to take back control of the wolf, most likely allowing hunting throughout most of the state, which would likely see the wolf disappear from area other than Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park and a few other patches of federal land? Or will the federal lawmakers and agencies manage to hold onto their responsibilities to care for the wolf, backed up by environmental groups and their celebrity and philanthropist funders, which would see wolves continue to grow in number, providing increased nature tourism opportunities but resentment from ranchers and state officials?

These issues are complex enough, but as they play out there are even greater forces at work. The impact of climate change is now being seen around the world, including the Greater Yellowstone Ecoregion (20). It appears that some tree species, such as whitebark pines, may be least resilient, and may not survive. Ecosystems are complex and although scientists don’t really know what will happen, they know species and habitat composition will be different in the future.

It is too early to say what this may mean for wolves, but it is reasonable to assume that being hunted while at the same time adapting to the stress of climate change will not make life any easier for them. The ongoing battles about whether to hunt them or protect them, and the unpredictable impact of climate change, means the story of wolves in Wyoming is far from over.

[1] Mech, L D (2012) ‘Is science in danger of sanctifying the wolf?’ US Geological Survey, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, 8711–37th St. SE, Jamestown, ND 58401–7317, United States

[2] Young, S P & E A Goldman (1944) ‘The Wolves of North America’ American Wildlife Institute, Washington, DC, quoted in Mech (2012)

[3] ‘How Wolves Change Rivers’ created by Sustainable Man, narrated by George Monbiot. Retrieved 31 October 2014 at http://sustainableman.org/blog/2014/02/17/how-wolves-change-rivers/

[4] Excerpt from ‘Strange Days on Planet Earth’ National Gegraphic, narrated by Edward Norton. Retrieved 31 October 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAGEXDlUHDE

[5] Marris, E (2014) ‘Rethinking predators: Legend of the wolf’ Nature News and Comment, 9 March 2014

[6] M Kauffman, Brodie, J and Jules, E (2010) ‘Are wolves saving Yellowstone’s aspen? A landscape-level test of a behaviorally mediated trophic cascade’ Ecology, 91(9), 2010, pp. 2742–2755

[7] http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/annualrpt13/reports/2013_WY_Annual_Report_FINAL2_2014-03-31.pdf

[8] http://www.jhnewsandguide.com/news/environmental/wolf-pack-cut-to-two/article_470cbe97-cc61-52cf-aa59-f44d4be72f1e.html

[9] Schullery, Paul, ed. (1996). The Yellowstone Wolf — A Guide and Sourcebook, University of Oklahoma Press

[10] http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/pressrel/2012/08312012_Wyoming_Wolf.html

[11] http://www.fws.gov/home/feature/2013/pdf/FAQsforGrayWolfandDelisting062013.pdf

[12] http://www.uwyo.edu/uw/news/2012/11/wyomingites-split-on-wolf-reintroduction.html

[13] http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/Wind_River_Res_Wolf_Plan_20070413.pdf

[14] http://www.nrccooperative.org/intern-watters.html

[15] http://trib.com/lifestyles/recreation/wyoming-s-lawmakers-might-use-law-to-remove-wolves-from/article_cee56ebe-6fa5-503f-be7d-dd6fc107b855.html

[16] Jesse H. Alderman, Crying Wolf: The Unlawful Delisting of Northern Rocky Mountain Gray Wolves from Endangered Species Act Protections, 50 B.C.L. Rev. 1195 (2009) http://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/bclr/vol50/iss4/6

[17] Bradley J. Bergstrom, Sacha Vignieri, Steven R. Sheffield, Wes Sechrest, and Anne A. Carlson (2009) The Northern Rocky Mountain Gray Wolf is Not Yet Recovered, BioScience 59(11):991–999. 2009 doi: 10.1525/bio.2009.59.11.11

[18] http://trib.com/lifestyles/recreation/wyoming-s-lawmakers-might-use-law-to-remove-wolves-from/article_cee56ebe-6fa5-503f-be7d-dd6fc107b855.html

[19] http://www.jhnewsandguide.com/news/environmental/wyoming-wolves-stay-under-fed-jurisdiction/article_4a43d529-117f-575b-a8ee-2d2a8b75bb94.html

[20] Marris, E (2011) ‘The End of the Wild’ Nature, Vol 469 pp 150–152