Ten Reasons to Love Wolves
By: Beth Stewart
Recently, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission voted 5-0 to made advances in creating a stamp to honor wolf conservation. Find out more details here. In celebration of the fact that the topic of wolf conservation will soon be brought to a larger stage, here are ten reasons to love wolves - and why knowledge of their conservation is important.
1. Humans are not on their menu. Wolves have a natural fear of people and don’t typically pose a threat to us. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, only two human fatalities have been attributed to wolves in North America in the past 100-plus years. (In contrast, dogs kill an estimated 20-30 people each year.)
2. Wolves are a lot like us. They live and hunt in extended family units where they develop strong social bonds. Mothers and fathers raise pups with the help of subordinate offspring from previous years. Aunts and uncles can often be found baby-sitting while the parents are out hunting dinner.
3. They strengthen the gene pool of their prey. Wolves typically hunt large hoofed mammals like elk, moose and deer. They kill weak, old, injured, sick or young animals leaving the strongest to survive.
4. Wolves are a classic American icon. Hundreds of thousands of them used to roam across North America. Today less than 5,500 wolves exist in the lower 48 states. For comparison, there are about 5,100 black rhinos left and they're considered critically endangered. Yet, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing taking the wolf off the Endangered Species List.
5. We owe them. By the mid-1930s humans had hunted the wolf to near extinction. When the Endangered Species Act was created in 1973, wolves were finally protected, but today they still occupy only about 8 percent of their historic range.
6. Wolves are a keystone species. As the most important animal in their ecosystem, they maintain a healthy natural balance that all other plants and animals depend on. Just ask the rabbits, foxes, otters, badgers, trout, amphibians, insects, songbirds, hawks, bears and other creatures who benefit from this trophic cascade.
7. Wolves helped save America’s most famous national park. When they were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995, the effect they had on the damaged ecosystem was nothing short of miraculous. Check out this beautiful short video to see how wolves literally change the behavior of rivers.
8. Wolves are good for the economy. Tourists, wildlife paparazzi and scientists flock to Yellowstone with cameras, binoculars and spotting scopes just to catch a glimpse of these charismatic carnivores. It’s estimated that wolf-watching brings in $30 million annually to the towns around the park.
9. Without wolves we wouldn’t have Fido and Rover. The common ancestor of our beloved dogs and today’s wolves was a large, wolf-like animal that lived between 9,000 and 34,000 years ago.
10. Wolves connect us to our primal selves. It’s hard to describe the feeling you get from seeing wolves in the wild. The sight of apex predators roaming free unlocks some sort of visceral emotion in us. Maybe just knowing they’re out there makes it easier to believe there’s still room in our crowded world for the magic of the wild.
Photo Credits: Beth Stewart
Beth Stewart is an Associate Creative Director for Animal Planet. She spends most of her spare time volunteering with animals, photographing animals, advocating for animals and generally being wrapped around her two cats’ little paws.