Letter: Reality of wolves in the wild

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Sir: As an Alaskan, I read with interest your article on the reintroduction of the wolves into Idaho and Yellowstone National Park ('Howl of the grey wolf returns to haunt the Rockies', 28 May).

Contrary to what your article suggests, there are some people who, without selfish motives, question the wisdom of wolf-reintroduction policies. Reporting the issue as resolved by noting the existence of a reasonable and effective mechanism for dealing with cattle and sheep losses ignores arguments about the biological and economic efficacy of such a policy. It is a false assumption that wolves will maintain, without management, a population of 100 in an area such as Yellowstone National Park. Wolf reproduction, which can be as high as 50 per cent of pack population per year, will increase with the abundance of available prey. Will wildlife management personnel be allowed to 'manage' (ie, kill) these animals to reassert the 'balance of nature' that we imagine existed? In Alaska, where wolves are not endangered, this proposition has been effectively challenged by militant environmentalists who view all lethal management measures as a return to exterminationalist policies.

Your report that eco-tourist economic potential of wolf reintroduction translates into dollars 8m per year fails to consider the fact that the accessibility of Yellowstone necessitates turning people away on a continuous basis. If the density of tourists is already maximised, how will we realise this economic boom?

Furthermore, when the large populations of bovine, and therefore visible, elk, deer and moose that the public has come to associate with Yellowstone have been reduced substantially by wolves, which are notorious for their elusiveness (most people in Alaska have never seen a wolf), what will keep the crowds coming to the park?

Will the Hollywood image of 'wilderness' that justified reintroduction transform itself to become the new rationalisation for removing wolves? Will the groundswell of public sentiment that environmental groups are using to their advantage today become the petard that they hoist themselves on tomorrow? And what of the wolves? What is best for them, or did anyone remember to consider them?

Yours faithfully,

KIRK SWEETSIR

Cambridge

29 May

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