Letter: Wolf awareness
October 19, 2016
This week, Oct. 16-22, marks National Wolf Awareness Week. Now in its 20th year, it was originally set up as a national event in the year after wolves were reintroduced in Idaho and Yellowstone National Park. Since then, governors representing over half the U.S. have proclaimed the third week in October as Wolf Awareness Week.
The North American wolf is an iconic species that’s fairly unique in terms of being historically vilified (thank you, Jack London), and universally/continuously controversial. But now highly valued for its better understood ecological role in many of our native ecosystems.
Here in Colorado, the native gray wolf has been struggling to recover since its elimination in the late 1930s through sanctioned hunting. And as recently as late last year, our Colorado Parks and Wildlife agency, with the support of Gov. Hickenlooper, adopted a motion to prevent rare Mexican gray wolves from being reintroduced into Colorado as part of a federal effort to save them from extinction.
So why celebrate wolves? They are scientifically described as keystone apex predators that help ecosystems stay in balance, mainly by keeping large herbivore (i.e. elk, moose) populations in check. And although truly “wild” animals, they are well-known, especially to our indigenous peoples, to share many “family values” as humans do (e.g. parental devotion to pups, mating for life, pack cooperation in essential activities).
Today, in other parts of the West, gray wolves have been delisted from federal protection as an endangered species and are subject to wolf hunts. And in most of the upper Midwest, where timberwolves have made an astonishing comeback through past protections.
On behalf of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club, please take a few moments this week to learn more about wolves, and consider what it might mean to our future generations to reintroduce gray wolves into Colorado. And celebrate wolves. A great place to start would be sierraclub.org/rocky-mountain-chapter/wolves.