America has a long history of persecuting wolves. In 1905 the federal government tried biological warfare, infecting wolves with mange. In 1915, Congress passed a law requiring the eradication of wolves from federal land. By 1926, all the wolves in Yellowstone National Park had been poisoned, shot, or trapped. By 1945, wolves had been essentially eliminated from the American West.
All of this was driven by the fantasy that wolves were a major menace to livestock and a threat to big game.
In the 1990s, wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho and the result was one of the greatest success stories in the history of wildlife management. There were multiple improvements to the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Wolves as important predators are essential elements of healthy ecosystems in the American west.
For reasons difficult to fathom, the status of wolves has become political. Conservative lawmakers in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Wisconsin have essentially declared war on wolves, radically liberalizing wolf trapping and hunting regulations. In Wyoming, it is now legal to kill wolves at any time by virtually any means, including running them over with snowmobiles and incinerating pups and nursing mothers in dens. Idaho has bounties as high as $2,000 for killing wolves.
The reasons are just as bogus as ever. Livestock predation is the big claim. In 2015, 1,904 wolves shared the Rocky Mountain West with 1.6 million cattle. Wolves killed all of 148 of them.
Evidently, wolves have become identified as a liberal cause and, as such, are now the enemy of conservative politics.
Photo, posted April 6, 2016, courtesy of Yellowstone National Park via Flickr.