There will be media stories, good comments, and ignorant angry comments, but here’s one from a person who knows-
Without commenting specifically on numbers or distribution of hunting quotas, I offer just these notes for your consideration.
Aldo Leopold; forester, wildlife ecologist, conservationist, father of game management in America, lived from 1887 to 1948. In 1944, he reviewed Young and Goldman’s Wolves of North America, which chronicled the extirpation of wolves. In his review, Leopold asked, “Are we really better off without wolves in the wilder parts of our forests and ranges?” He also asked, “Why, in the necessary process of extirpating wolves from the livestock ranges of Wyoming and Montana, were not some of the uninjured animals used to restock the Yellowstone?” Thirty years later, in 1974, the planning began, and in 1995, twenty years later, wolves were restored to Yellowstone.
Leopold’s thinking about deer, wolves, and forests is epitomized by his essay, “Thinking Like a Mountain.” In brief, he shot a wolf. In later years he came to “suspect that just as a deer herd lives in mortal fear of its wolves, so does a mountain (and its plants) live in mortal fear of its deer.” To deer, we could add elk. In Yellowstone, the lack of wolves led to woody species like willow and aspen being suppressed by elk browsing. With the return of wolves, willows are growing, once-rare birds are nesting in them, beavers are building dams from the willows, and the wolves are feeding a couple of dozen species of scavengers, including eagles and grizzly bears.
I’m far more concerned about disease than about predators on our large game.
Chronic wasting disease could wipe out our elk and deer. Wolves test elk and deer, looking for vulnerable animals all day, 365 days a year. You and I can’t do that. N. Thompson Hobbs (2006) evaluated the potential for selective predation by wolves to reduce or eradicate chronic wasting disease (CWD) in populations of elk in Rocky Mountain National Park. If it works, can we afford to throw away our only means of controlling CWD?