Discuss whether the gray wolf’s reintroduction has had a positive or a negative impact on the local communities and ecosystem.
The reintroduction of the gray wolf into the Northwestern United States (e.g., Montana, Idaho, Minnesota, and North Dakota) has been controversial.
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Gray Wolves were hunted to near extinction in the U.S. in the 1920's. Ranchers and farmers believed they were a threat to livestock and profits. Wolves also had a bad reputation that falsely claimed they attacked people, which is extremely rare. Wolves were at the brink of extinction and then were raised in captive breeding programs. They were reintroduced into the Yellowstone National Park area and Idaho in 1995 to reestablish their numbers. Wolves are predators and play a critical role in keeping the numbers of elk and deer in an equilibrium with the amount of vegetation(their food supply) in these areas. Due to their absence in the 20th century, the amount of prey animals-deer and elk soared which in turn devasted the autotrophs or producers(plants) in the area. The thought was that the reintroduction of wolves would help to establish an equilibrium between predator, prey and the plant populations in the ecosystem. An organization called Defenders of Wildlife, in 1987 set up a fund to compensate ranchers for any livestock proven to be killed by wolves, since this was of great concern to the ranchers. There has been an ensuing political battle between conservationists and ranchers. Some say the wolves have been nuisances, others claim that some wolves and pups have died of starvation and malnutrition. However, there has been an increase in the numbers of wolves in Idaho, Montana and Yellowstone Park. Since coyotes and foxes were unable to keep the numbers of elk and deer in harmony with the available food supply, it seems that by adding wolves back to the environment, as biodiversity increases, the health of the ecosystem will improve.
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