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Idaho Wolves Deserve Conversation Not Eradication

1568 words - 7 pages

The wolves beat the hunters in the recent, and highly contested, wolf and coyote derby in Salmon, ID. Wolves eluded the participants for the entire two-day hunt, but 21 coyotes were not so fortunate. The absence of any wolf kills, however, has not lessened the intensity of the controversy, nor the temperature of the debates. Wolves are a touchy subject, no matter the stance; as with most hotly contested issues, there is an abundance of information, but not all of it is correct.

So are the wolves predators that destroy livestock other wildlife, creating devastating losses for both ranchers and hunters? Or are they prey? Misunderstood, maligned and victimized only for what comes naturally to ...view middle of the document...

They stand upwards of 35" and can weigh as much as 170 lbs, though they average about 145 lbs. These wolves are the big kids.

Aside from the subspecies difference, it is very difficult to find unbiased comparisons between the two. Some will say that the latter is much more aggressive, much more prone to attack livestock, and much more likely to decimate wildlife herds. Wolf advocates say the fault lies with the ranchers and hunters who have forced the wolves out of their natural habitat, and really should expect no different. Searches across the internet reveal the same arguments, with no sign of common ground, and the common ground may be where the answer lies.

Regardless of whether the species is the Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf or the McKenzie Valley Wolf, it is still a wolf. Both subspecies hunt the same food and have the same breeding habits, but one is slightly larger than the other. The reality is what now lives in Idaho's back country is probably a hybrid of the two subspecies, and one which has adopted characteristics of both through genetic combinations. This is a theory, of course, because nothing substantial can be found to back the claim.

As for the aggressiveness; again, the answer most likely is in the center where neither side dares tread. Livestock does take up a lot of ground, and this ground is shared by the wolves, along with cougar, elk, deer, moose, coyote, fox and so on. To get a good feel for this, one only has to visit the open range areas of the South Hills - while nearly at the opposite end of the state, it is not uncommon to come across all of the above (except the wolves), and all standing on the road at one place or another. When domestic livestock encroach on ground usually occupied by wildlife, conflict is going to occur; unfortunately, a newborn calf or lamb is going to make a much easier catch than a full grown elk. This also means that a rancher feels the need to protect his or her herd from a very real threat.

While wolves do pose a threat to livestock, especially if ample wild game is not available, they do not seem to pose as big of a threat to humans. This is not to say that wolves will not attack humans, because they will, especially if threatened or provoked. However, a wolf attack is rarely fatal, and a person's dog faces much more danger from a wolf than the person himself.  In fact, a mountain lion poses more of a threat to a person.

Wolves spread parasites to deer, elk and cattle, and this parasite is dangerous to humans.

The parasite in question is Echinococcus granulosis. This parasitic tapeworm is one requiring two hosts to live. The life cycle of this parasite begins when a wolf, dog, coyote or fox eats an infected animal, such as a cow or an elk. The parasite then lives in the gut of the host animal, where it lays its eggs, which are then expelled through that animal's feces. When the ungulate, such as a cow or an elk, ingests the feces through the normal act of grazing, then the cycle...

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