Ranchers Co-existing with Wolves

Photo obtained from http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/

http://www.hcn.org/articles/opinion-rural-communities-can-coexist-with-wolves-heres-how (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Mitch Friedman, a wildlife conservationist who founded Conservation Northwest based in Washington, claims that ranchers can learn to coexist with wolves by adhering to precautions and taking desperate measures when needed. Wolves are very adaptable to different habitats; so as a top predator, their main threat is humans. Friedman compares coexistence with the alternative approach: eradicating them. In Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming 20% of the wolf population is killed annually. The proposed wildlife conservation model implemented in Washington includes creating an ecosystem where wolf populations and rural communities can coexist and thrive. Friedman describes the history of Washington’s wolf reintroduction; 20 packs have been confirmed since the documentation of the first pack in 2008, specifically 120 wolves with a 25%+ annual growth rate. Building coexistence is based on uniting stakeholders by establishing common ground. A main aspect is that ranchers employ deterrence measures to prevent or reduce conflict. It must also be accepted that lethal removal may be required to resolve a human-wolf conflict. Friedman also addresses that this approach provides solutions through cooperation, rather than make wars of survival due to cultural disagreements. He emphasizes respect, willingness, and compromise in dialogue between conservationists and rural communities; to establish collaboration between stakeholders concerning wolf packs, in turn creating greater biodiversity.

Wolves used to inhabit all of the United States before they were hunted, nearly to extinction. What was the purpose of reintroducing the gray wolf to yellowstone in 1995, if humans are doomed to kill them off again? Collaboration is essential to protect and grow the wolf population. This in turn provides greater biodiversity and healthier ecosystems based on the ecological impact that the wolf species has. If you are not familiar with the yellowstone project; introducing wolves resulted in a more controlled deer population that avoided open areas, causing native vegetation to thrive again, and attracting other species like beavers and rabbits by creating ecological niches. Introducing wolves resulted in a trickle down effect of positive interactions, and I believe Friedman’s approach at coexistence is another possible win-win situation for rural communities and a healthy ecosystem. Wolves made me realize how much one species can affect a whole ecosystem. I felt a connection with the author, through our shared passion for wolves. Maybe I watched Balto too many times as a child.

Wolves affect multiple Rangeland Ecosystem Goods and Services. Why were they eradicated in the first place? So that they were no longer a threat to humans and their economy/culture. Did humans consider the effect a wolf population may have on an ecosystem? It is essential for biodiversity and wildlife populations. Friedman’s suggestion that we implement collaboration and deterrence methods within a rural community as an attempt at coexistence with wolf populations, provides practical solutions between stakeholders and supporting services. Wolves promote a healthy ecosystem; which in turn provides better environment for forage production, benefiting beef and lamb production as well. Coexistence requires that we protect our livestock from direct threat of a wolf, but also allow a wolf population to perform its ecological role in influencing biodiversity. While wolves bring down the numbers of game for hunters, they are more important for controlling the deer population. From what I understand, this is their main way of influencing biodiversity. A huge way that wolves influence Floods is by creating an ecological niche for Beavers. In conclusion; wolves relate to almost every rangeland ecosystem good and service because they influence greater biodiversity, which is a huge factor determining the quality of an EGS. Maintaining biodiversity is a supporting service necessary for the production of all other ecosystem services. The environmental side of an EGS will always affect the economic and social dividends as well. Coexistence will lead to better environmental conditions and more productive economic returns.

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