Wolf impacts underestimated
According to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grossly underestimated the
impact of a reintroduced population of wolves.
The wolf population in the Greater Yellowstone area in
2005 was at least 3.3 times the original environmental
impact statement prediction for a recovered population.
The number of breeding pairs of wolves in the GYA in 2005
was at least twice as high as the original EIS prediction
and the number of breeding pairs in 2004 was at least 3.1
times the original EIS prediction.
In 2005, the wolf population in Wyoming outside Yellowstone
National Park exceeded the recovery criteria for the entire
region and continues to increase rapidly.
The estimated annual predation rate (22 ungulates per wolf)
is 1.8 times the annual predation rate (12 ungulates per
wolf) predicted in the EIS.
The estimated number of ungulates taken by 325 wolves in
a year (7,150) is six times higher than the original EIS
The percent of the northern Yellowstone elk harvest during
the 1980s currently taken by wolves (50 percent) is 6.3
times the original estimate of eight percent projected
in the EIS.
The actual decline in the northern Yellowstone elk herd
(more than 50 percent) is 1.7 times the maximum decline
originally forecast in the EIS.
The actual decline in cow harvest in the northern Yellowstone
elk herd (89 percent) is 3.3 times the decline originally
forecast in the EIS.
The actual decline in bull harvest in the northern Yellowstone
elk herd is 75 percent, whereas the 1994 EIS predicted
bull harvests would be “unaffected.”
Since wolf introduction, average ratios of calf elk to
cow elk have been greatly \depressed in the northern Yellowstone
elk herd and in the Wyoming elk herds impacted by wolves.
In the northern Yellowstone elk herd and in the Sunlight
unit of the Clarks Fork herd, calf:cow rations have been
suppressed to unprecedented levels below 15 calves per
100. The impact of wolves on calf recruitment was not addressed
by the 1994 EIS.
WG&F stated: “Despite research findings in Idaho
and the Greater Yellowstone Area, and monitoring evidence
in Wyoming that indicate wolf predation is having an impact
on ungulate populations that will reduce hunter opportunity
if the current impact levels persist, the Service continues
to rigidly deny wolf predation is a problem.”
The 1994 EIS predicted that presence of wolves would
result in a 5-10 percent increase in annual visitation
National Park. On this basis, the EIS forecast wolves
in the region would generate $20 million in revenue to
states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. WG&F reports
that annual park visitation remained essentially unchanged
after wolf introduction, and has decreased 2.6 percent
since the wolf population reached recovery goals in 2000.
Since park visitation did not increase as originally forecast,
the Service cannot legitimately conclude presence of wolves
has had any appreciable effect on net tourism revenues,” WG&F
WG&F stated: “Wolf presence can be ecologically
compatible in the GYA only to the extent that the distribution
and numbers of wolves are controlled and maintained at
approximately the levels originally predicted by the 1994
EIS –100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs.” WG&F
maintained that FWS “has a permanent, legal obligation
to manage wolves at the levels on which the wolf recovery
program was originally predicated, the levels described
by the impact analysis in the 1994 EIS.”