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JUST THE FACTS, MA'AM

By Sharon Emerson

What the public doesn't know about wolves could doom efforts to reintroduce this predator to Utah. A challenge for HUPC is to supply those facts and below are four that ought to be known about the potential impacts of wolves on livestock and hunting. This information heavily tips the cost benefit ratio in favor of wolf reintroduction.

The citizens of Utah are being asked to make a judgment on a complex issue that lies beyond their normal experience. After all, 80% of the state's population lives in urban areas and has no firsthand knowledge of livestock and predation and less than 10% of the population hunts. When people lack knowledge, they frequently respond viscerally. For example, while most Utahns aren't ranchers and won't be directly threatened by the loss of livestock and livelihood, they may oppose wolves in Utah because at an emotional level they are hearing and can empathize with an individual rancher's potential economic loss. Similarly when pro-hunting advocates claim that 'wolves are a direct threat to hunting in Utah', the majority of the general public (including most hunters) lack the factual information to properly evaluate this statement.

My suggestion is that every person who supports the reintroduction of wolves in Utah arm themselves with a few basic facts to respond to these gut-level reactions. We cannot deny that individual ranchers and hunters will be affected negatively by the reintroduction of wolves to Utah, but we can point out that the overall costs will be small and the benefits large.

  • FACT 1: In Idaho, Montana and Wyoming less than one-third the predicted livestock predation by wolves has actually occurred. Between the years 1987 and 2001 a total of 188 cattle, 494 sheep and 43 dogs were killed by wolves (source: Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery 2001 Annual Report). Based on what has occurred in other states with wolves, a Utah wolf population of 200 would be predicted to kill 200 sheep a year. Compare this to the estimated Utah sheep population of between 370,00 and 390,000 animals. The predicted pay out for wolf-killed cattle, again based on a Utah wolf population of 200, would be $35,000 in an industry that sets its worth at $376 million (source: Utah State University Study: Wolves in Utah: An Analysis of Potential Impacts and Recommendations for Management .www.cnr.usu.edu/nrei).

  • FACT 2: There is no evidence that wolves in Utah would dramatically reduce deer or elk populations. Based on predation rates from other states, a population of 200 Utah wolves would be predicted to take approximately 3600 deer and elk out of an estimated population of more than 500,000 animals. For comparison, highway accidents result in between 2500 and 7000 kills/year while hunters take 48,000 animals (source: Wolves in Utah: An Analysis of Potential Impacts and Recommendations for Management .www.cnr.usu.edu/nrei).

  • FACT 3: Hunter success has shown no change in Montana since the reintroduction of the wolf. The Minnesota Management Plan for Wolves (over 20 years of increasing wolf numbers) has actually increased hunter harvests of deer while still providing ample wolf prey (sources: Minnesota Department Natural Resources Division of Wildlife 2001. Minnesota wolf management plan. files.dnr.state.mn.us/natural_resources/animals/mammals/wolves/wolfplan2000; Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, 2001, reported in Gray Wolf Progress Report of the Wolf Recovery Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, April 6).

  • FACT 4: The only study of the economic impacts of wolf reintroduction was done in the Greater Yellowstone Area. It showed no economic losses to the hunting industry after wolf reintroduction (source: Wolves in Utah: An Analysis of Potential Impacts and Recommendations for Management .www.cnr.usu.edu/nrei).


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