Letting Wolves Roam -- Or Not

ByABC News
February 8, 2001, 3:51 PM

D U L U T H,   Minn. -- Her name was B45-F, and since she crossed the Snake River a year ago on a nomadic journey from Idaho into Oregon, the lone gray wolf has raised a host of questions about the reintroduction of big predators.

At first, B45-F was a tooth-and-fur reminder of how successful wolfintroduction has been across the United States. Today, shes representativeof a battle being fought nationwide over how far wolves should be allowed toroam.

Appropriately, the most decisive step yet on this issue will be taken inMinnesota the state where wolves have made the most dramatic recovery.The state is expected to draw an invisible biological line in the sand,demarcating where the sometimes-popular, sometimes-reviled predators canbe shot when they are removed from the federal list of threatened species.

Its a policy decision that has attracted no small amount of attention, with oneprominent scientist controversially suggesting farmers should be given greatleeway to shoot wolves. Moreover, the management plan for caretakingwolves will shape the direction of wolf recovery from the upper Midwest tothe desert Southwest and the Maine woods.

The recovery of wolves in the Land of 10,000 Lakes represents perhaps thefinest example of government conservation agencies pulling a large carnivoreback from the brink of extinction. In 1974, a year after the EndangeredSpecies Act was passed, Minnesota was forced to protect the last pocket ofwild wolves left in the Lower 48 states, a scattered population of only a fewhundred.

Now, researchers place the number at more than 2,400 almost double whatscientists said would be necessary to delist the state population. Much of thesuccess is owed to a prohibition on wolf hunting, trapping and poisoning thatdecimated wolves elsewhere.

The recovery of wolves in Minnesota mirrors a trend of success in bringingwolves back to several regions.

A Shadow of Their Former Presence We would be talking about maybe 10,000wolves being back in the landscape [in the Lower 48], says Robert Ferris,vice president for species conservation at Defenders of Wildlife, adding