The Science of Sustainability

Can We Live With Wolves?

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In 1995, the Grey Wolf was reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and the wolves made a comeback.

I fell in love with wolves after reading Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat ten years ago. Their grace, playfulness, loyalty, keen sense of hearing and smell, and beauty made my heart bow low in respect. They were animals to admire. As the Conservation Manager at the Oakland Zoo, I had the opportunity to investigate my wolf interests by asking the California Wolf Center to present earlier this year at our Conservation Speaker Series. On a wolf roll, I am excited to host yet another canine event: Living with Wolves, on April 29th. This evening will feature a screening of the film,"Return to the Wild: A Modern Tale of Wolf and Man,"and a talk by the film's producers. We will also welcome Never Cry Wolf Rescue & Adoption and a few of their canine ambassadors.

The film Return to the Wild looks at the human-wildlife conflict that is felt all over the world with various humans, animals and habitats. We all want a place to live, to be safe, to find food and to raise a family. When settlers came to this country, they decided that there wasn’t room for both the wolf and the new American. As they "settled the wilderness" and fear overtook ecological knowledge, most wolves were killed by the 1930's by extreme and unnessesary brutality. Myths were created to keep the name of the wolf dark and dangerous in the human psyche. The continent dwindled from a healthy and balanced abundance of wolves to just over 500 animals. Living with wolves is something our country struggles with still.

In 1995, the Grey Wolf was reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and the wolves made a comeback. Tens of thousands of tourists are thrilled with the wolves and come to the park in packs with giant cameras, hoping for a peek at the majesty a real wolf. Some, of course, are less thank thrilled with the wolves and their hunting choices, and have faced loss of livestock and livelihood.

Fear-based solutions to the conflicts have been formulated, such as in 2007 when Sarah offered a $150 bounty for wolves, asking hunters to present a wolf's foreleg to collect the money. The latest science has proven that hunting has is an inefficient means to control population, unable to mimic the complex web of life created by nature. Better solutions must exist.

Others dedicated fans of the wolf are ecologists, calling wolves the "bioengineers of the wild". Wolves keep the ecosystem in balance, as many keystone species do. As wolves returned to the park and created balance in elk populations, Aspens and Willows returned. So did songbirds, stream beads and beavers. The eco-systems began to function and thrive.

Return to the Wild takes a fair look at the re-introduction of the gray wolf and the various stakeholders involved. Wildlife experts, hunters and ranchers all get a turn at speaking their mind. The film’s hope is that a balanced, fair and soundly sustainable solution does indeed exist. That is something to bow to.

You can help wolves here.

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Category: Biology, Partners

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Amy Gotliffe

About the Author ()

Amy Gotliffe is Conservation Manager at the Oakland Zoo. She is a Detroit transplant, enjoying the good Bay Area life for 17 years. She has a degree in communications, holds several teaching credentials and has a Masters Degree in Environmental Education. She has worked at various Bay Area educational and environmental institutions, teaching second grade, working on campaigns, planting pollinator gardens, producing earth day events and generally spreading the word about wildlife and green living. She currently works at The Oakland Zoo where she serves as the Conservation Manager. There, she coordinates support for international, national and local conservation efforts, produces a Conservation Speaker Series, produces the zoo's Earth Day event, leads eco-trips, teaches the various educational programs and heads up an on-site Green Team. On her list of other passions are travel, photography, music and the lindy hop. :-)
  • Erin Barca

    Thanks for allowing opportunities for education and discussion concerning wolves and their hopeful return to ancestral lands here in California.

    I was able to attend the first moot with the California Wolf Center. Patrick Valentino and Amaroq Weiss did a wonderful job.

    There is another film that I would like to bring to your attention that touches upon what you mentioned happening in Yellowstone. One of the observed ecological benefits that wolves have brought to riparian habitats through simply being wolves and keeping their prey on their toes. "What but the wolf's tooth whittled so fine the fleet limbs of the antelope?"

    The film is called – Lords of Nature: Life in a Land of Great Predators, and is available here – http://lordsofnature.org/

    Currently there are 0 planned future screenings in our state. Maybe the Oakland Zoo could fill the void.

    A couple other fantastic lectures that you may be interested in (free to view online!), involve the moose and wolf research being conducted on Isle Royale since 1958. I love the way John Vucetich relays his knowledge to us. Eloquent and easy to integrate. Those videos can be found here – http://www.isleroyalewolf.org/educ_matls/educ_matl/video.html