Gray wolf comeback worries Midwest
Gray wolf numbers in the US are at their highest point in years thanks to diligent restoration work. But some farmers and biologists in the Midwest are concerned that there are now too many wolves in their backyard.
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State and federal wildlife authorities would like to reduce these problems by killing wolves that threaten people or livestock. They also want to confine wolves to wilder areas where they are less likely to cause conflicts. Georgia Parham, a spokeswoman for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, says the agency is working on "a biologically consistent and legally defensible approach to wolf management." Meanwhile, the agency is considering applications from Michigan and Wisconsin for limited permission to kill problem wolves.Skip to next paragraph
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"We believe they are best tolerated when there is some measure of control of the population," says John Erb, a state wolf biologist in Minnesota. Mr. Erb says wolves are more accepted in Minnesota than in other states in part because they are listed as threatened, not endangered, under federal law, and officials may therefore kill troublesome individuals.
But managing wolves is difficult. Twice in the past three years the US Fish and Wildlife Service has taken Great Lakes wolves off the list of threatened and endangered species. And each time, animal-protection groups have gone to court to force the wolf back on.
"In our judgment," says Howard Goldman, Minnesota state director of the Humane Society of the United States, "until the gray wolf is restored to a significant portion of its former range, we believe it must remain protected." Despite their resurgence in the northern Midwest, gray wolves occupy only 1/20th of their former range, Mr. Goldman notes. That's "far too low," he says.
The wolf's resurgence in the Great Lakes region has illustrated what Mr. Treves calls "the enormous recuperative power of nature." It has also demonstrated the animal's remarkable adaptability.
Far from the wilderness creature of the public imagination, wolves "can live just about anywhere," says L. David Mech, an eminent wolf expert with the US Geological Survey. The question is whether people will let them.
"You take the cornfields of Indiana," says Mr. Mech. "There's deer living here. That's food. That's all wolves require."
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