1914 began the official war of the wolves. This year Congress officially approves funds for the eradication of wolves, cougars, and other destructive animals. Wolves were declared destructive to agricultural and big game interests and formally hunted. Nearly a century later, in 1995, wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and Idaho's Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness(Phillips, 1996, p.20). The reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone National Park did not end the debate of whether wolves should stay or go. Advocates for wolf reintroduction say the wolves control elk and deer population numbers; preventing the destruction of ranchers cattle and the land. Opponents say the wolves kill elk and deer that could be hunted. Ranchers fear the wolves will kill their livestock decreasing profits.
Wolves are a natural mean of controlling the number of deer, elk, and other large game in an environment. The larger populations of herbivores are a problem for farmers and ranchers. The herd's winter grounds could be the same ranchers use for their cattle. In 1983 the case of Allen Nelson, a rancher in Montana, came to the attention of the Forest Service. Nelson owned land about twenty miles north of Yellowstone National Park. During the winter, elk would eat the grass on his land that he needed to feed his cattle. After Nelson's efforts to persuade the National Park Service elk were migrating form Yellowstone National Park failed he turned to the Forest Service. The Forest Service owned land next Nelson and did not want the degradation of the grass in the forest. Partnering with the State of Montana, Nelson and the Forest Service placed radio collars on a dozen elk. After tracking the elk through the next spring and winter migration the researchers two elk herds. A smaller herd that had taken residence on Nelson's land and a larger herd that migrated from Yellowstone National Park. The loss of the wolves caused the elk herds to explode to the point the herds needed more food during the winter destroying food for rancher's cattle (Alston, 1987, p. 72).
The increase in big game populations not only hurts ranchers but also the land. “a range pulled down by too many deer may fail of replacement in as many years.”(Leopold 132) Without a natural predator to keep the herds moving from one grazing pasture to another the animals will eat the grass to the ground leaving dust. Aldo Leopold recognized this is why, “we have dustbowls, and rivers washing the future into the sea” (Leopold, 1949, p. 132). Because the grass has been eaten nothing is preventing the Earth to erode. The erosion of the land leaves the area unsuitable for cultivation.
The elk and deer eating the grasses for food does not leave food and habitat for other smaller animals such as rabbits and mice. Without adequate food and shelter these smaller animals struggle to survive. Fewer small prey makes hunting for food harder for small predators like foxes.