Wanting to get an idea of the larger picture of the ongoing controversy about wolves, I recently bought and read my fifth book about Yellowstone and wolves, but this one from the point of view of a journalist, Wyoming resident, and (in recent years) sheep rancher named Cat Urbigkit. It’s called Yellowstone Wolves: A Chronicle of the Animal, the People, and the Politics, published by McDonald & Woodward in 2008.
Cat and her husband filed a lawsuit in the early years after wolves were reintroduced to the park. They contend that, in pushing through the wolf introduction in 1995 and 1996, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not consider the already existing population of wolves, proven by many sightings over several decades in western Wyoming. They also feel that the native wolves should have been protected, and they believe that the Canadian wolves are a different and larger species.
Other entities filed other suits, and rulings and decisions about the wolves rolled through the courts until January 2000, when the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals decided that the Canadian wolves were to stay.
Yellowstone Wolves is effectively two books in one: Chapters 1 through 19 detail the remnant wolves and the legal maneuvers, and Chapters 20 through 33 tell of wolf depredation in Wyoming and the very real hardships ranchers have encountered. An example is the large number of pet dogs that have been harassed and killed by wolves. Chapter 27 claims that the well-publicized Defenders of Wildlife payments to ranchers for livestock lost to wolves actually compensates them for only about half their losses.
The book includes an interesting foreword by former USFWS employee and wolf taxonomy expert, Ronald M. Nowak. He writes that Urbigkit “tells the story from the perspective of both a conservationist devoted to saving an endangered wolf and as a rural resident whose livelihood may be jeopardized by the wolf,” and concludes that she “has demonstrated the complexity and anguish of wolf conservation and provided a unique perspective on a fascinating story.” I remain a fan of the Yellowstone wolf introduction but have come away from reading this with an increased understanding of the controversy it has caused.