Yellowstone wolves are far more popular now than in 2005 when “wolf watching” generated an estimated $35.5 million of spending by tourists from outside the tri-state region. This means serious cash for local shops, restaurants, hotels, tour companies and other businesses.
It’s not good for Wyoming, economically or image-wise, to be killing wolves that lay the proverbial golden eggs. This is a mighty foolish way to treat wolves that are valued by so many people, and often featured in books, videos, articles, art and social media.
Given their high profile, one might guess that park wolves live the life free from human hostility. Yet this is hardly the case.
Killing wolves for trophy occurs right up to the boundary of Yellowstone National Park. Wolves commonly cross that boundary and are sometimes lured out of the park by electronic calling or gut piles left by hunters. Poaching of park wolves is also a problem, evident by the recent loss of the famed alpha female of the Canyon pack.
Meanwhile, park biologists continue gathering copious data on wolves, leading to prestigious scientific papers and media interviews. While more scientific data on wolves is generally a good thing, one wonders how the wintertime stress they suffer from darting, tranquilizing, and collaring actually benefits them.
Given their high profile, we'd expect that wolf hunting near the park would be a thing of the past, that poaching would be mostly eliminated, and that wolf research would be non-intrusive except under extraordinary circumstances.
We can’t simply assume that greater cash flow from Yellowstone wolves will necessarily translate into better treatment of them. To date, there seems to be little correlation. While a precious few spoke up for wolves at recent state game commission meetings, and dozens took a moment to send comments, these advocates represent a tiny fraction of those benefiting from Yellowstone wolves.
Let's ponder this gross asymmetry and urge stakeholders who profit most from wolves to join the ranks of their staunchest defenders.