Letter: Duchinsky, Wolf Awareness Week
October 14, 2016
Duchinsky, Wolf Awareness Week
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 re-introduced to the state of 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.
Why a “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 1930’s through government-sponsored trapping, poisoning and hunting. And as recently as late last year, our Colorado Parks and Wildlife organization, with the support of Governor 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 trophy wolf hunts. As in most of the upper Midwest, where timber wolves have made an astonishing comeback through past protections.
Wolf hunts?! Yes, in part, because many myths still surround wolves even to this day. Myths that elk populations will be decimated, ranchers’ livestock killed and people attacked, have been proven false by evidence from 20 years’ experience with the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone National Park.
On behalf of our local Headwaters Group, 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 the relevance of wolves in our world today! A great place to start would be sierraclub.org/rocky-mountain-chapter/wolves.