Once the howl of the wolf was heard all over the wilderness in the United States. But by 1900, only a few thousand wolves roamed free in the U.S., mostly in Minnesota and Alaska. In 1973, the government put wolves on the endangered-species list.
Today, animal activists are working to bring back the wolf. But some farmers and ranchers worry that this meat eater will endanger their way of life.
In an experimental program, 31 wild wolves were brought from Canada and released in Yellowstone National Park in the last two years. Nine wolf pups were born in the park. Now, animal activists want to repeat this success story in New York, Maine, New Mexico, and Arizona.
The Wolf Debate
However, in New York, dairy farmers worry that wolves will attack them or their livestock. In New Mexico, ranchers worry about wolf attacks on their cattle.
"Big dairy farms are 200 miles from the park. That's within the traveling distance of wolves," said a farmer near Adirondack Park, where wolves may be released in New York.
Animal activists disagree. "The big bad wolf image is a lie," says one activist. "There is no record of wolves ever hurting humans."
One group, Defenders of Wildlife, has agreed to pay for livestock lost to wolves. They paid a rancher near Yellowstone after a wolf killed two sheep. They also returned the wolf to parkland.
Animal activists point out that wolves are an important part of the food chain. They hunt and eat large grazing animals.
In the Adirondacks, deer and moose herds have grown so large that there is not enough food for them. Activists say wolves will prey on the sick or weak animals. That will keep herds healthy and maintain the balance of the ecosystem.
It may be years before wolves are released in New York. However, wolves may be returned to New Mexico and Arizona as early as next year.
Animal activists hope wolves will become a familiar sight across the U.S. Until then, wolves will be common only in fairy tales.
Scholastic News, Grade 4 Edition, 2/21/97