Wolf conservation: Civic Intelligence example for Humankind
Prepared by Dale Bristow
Submitted to Douglas Schuler
Civic Intelligence: Theory and Practice
Case Study: 
Week 8, Wednesday, 5/18/2011
- Historical decline of the wolf
Long before humankind became the dominant species on Earth, wolves held that place of honor. Wolves are considered a keystone species that sits atop of the food chain. They maintained a balance in the eco-systems they inhabited. At one time, wolves covered much of the North American continent. According to wolf biologist L. David Mech, the wolf was originally “the most widely distributed mammal in the world.” (1) Unfortunately, as humans evolved and expanded in population as well as into the top predator, they began to have conflicts with wolves. In many cultures, the wolf became a thing of evil and danger. As far back as 600 B.C, stories attributed to Aesop talked about the cunning and wickedness of wolves. (2) This fear and loathing spread from Asia and Europe and made it’s way to North America. The Native Americans did not share this feeling towards the wolf. They respected and revered the wolf as one of the great spirit animals. Europeans however saw them as a problem that needed to be eradicated and began hunting and trapping wolves by the hundreds of thousands, such that by the 1970’s the only wolves left in the wild could be found in the Alaska, Canada and the north eastern tip of Minnesota.
- Endangered Species Act of 1973
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 was passed to “help endangered and threatened species recover from their low numbers so that they are no longer in danger of qualifying to be classified as endangered or threatened in the foreseeable future.” (3) By this time it was determined that the gray wolf population had been reduced by almost 95% of it’s historic population. Scientific estimates believe that prior to Europeans settling in North America there were as many as 400,000 wolves in the lower 48 states alone. The only wolves that remained in the wild in the lower 48 were a few hundred located in northern Minnesota and Michigan.
When the wolf was listed on the ESA in 1973, only the subspecies, Rocky Mountain Gray wolf was listed. In 1978, the ESA was amended to include all subspecies of the gray wolf. There are currently five subspecies of gray wolf, the Arctic, Tundra, Rocky Mountain, Eastern Timer and the Mexican Gray. In 1982, the federal government once again amended the ESA to allow for the reintroduction of gray wolves in Yellowstone National Park and Central Idaho. After numerous legal challenges to the idea of reintroduction, wolves were relocated from Canada to Yellowstone and central Idaho. Since those reintroductions, the population has grown where now there are over 1,500 wolves located in the Rocky Mountain region that encompasses Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, eastern Washington, eastern Oregon and northern Utah. In the Great Lakes region the recovery is even greater with an estimated population of over 5,000 wolves in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Mexican Grey wolf that was at the very verge of total extinction in the wild. There are currently about 50 wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico and the struggle to have those numbers increase continues.
- Wolf Sanctuaries and conservation organizations