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2008, 6x9", XXV+ 350 pages, 34 b&w photos, references, index.


Mammal Field Guides:

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Trackards for North American Mammals

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The Companion Guide to Trackards for North American Mammals

Natural History ~ Natural Resources and Conservation

Yellowstone Wolves

- A Chronicle of the Animal, the People, and the Politics

by Cat Urbigkit (Click for author info)
with a foreword by Ronald M. Nowak

$29.95 Softcover
ISBN 0-939923-70-X; 978-0-939923-70-0

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Press Release


The relationship between wolves and humans is long and storied, and one contentious chapter in this lengthy history has been playing out over the past two decades in and near the northern Rocky Mountains of the United States--especially in the states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. The present controversy has focused on a proposal by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to transplant populations of wolves from Canada into parts of Idaho and Wyoming--wolves already had spread from Canada into northwestern Montana--and the consequences of those transplants. The animals to be reintroduced into the area were from Canada; they were larger than the wolves native to the northern Rockies of the United States, and they possibly had a different social structure and filled a different niche.

The action proposed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service would reintroduce a species of large predator into a region from which it presumably had been exterminated during more than a century of human persecution. Such a proposal awakened historic, scientific, social, economic, legal, political, and bureaucratic perspectives which often differed and inevitably converged and competed for influence and, eventually, expression. The purported benefits of this experimental reintroduction included:

(a) expanding the numbers and range of an officially recognized threatened species;
(b) restoring the regional ecosystems to something nearer their natural states;
(c) providing predators that could reduce the unnaturally large herds of elk and bison that occurred in some parts of the region; and
(d) stimulating ecotourism in the region.

Opposition to the transplant rested on the premises that:

(a) populations of native wolves were already present in at least some parts of the region;
(b) these native populations likely represented a different subspecies than the Canadian wolves that would be transplanted;
(c) the US Endangered Species Act forbids the introduction of an exotic subspecies into the range of threatened populations of the same species; and
(d) predation on sheep and cattle were likely outcomes of this action.

The opposing sides expressed their views widely and diversely, litigation took place, and eventually the US Fish and Wildlife Service was given clearance to proceed with the reintroduction program. The transfer of Canadian wolves actually took place in 1995; the transplants were successful and, since that time, the wolf populations of the region increased rapidly and steadily expanded their ranges.

Yellowstone Wolves provides a unique perspective on this controversy, including many of its historic, scientific, social, economic, legal, political, bureaucratic, and emotional dimensions. It is the most comprehensive account ever assembled of the history of the wolves native to the Yellowstone region; it is a detailed chronicle of the debate over the legality and propriety of introducing wolves from Canada into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho during the mid-1990s; and it is an account of the spread of the Canadian wolves, following their release, and the tensions created by the movement of these large predators into what are primarily lands where sheep and cattle are raised.

Author Cat Urbigkit--an advocate for the conservation of what were presumed to be remaining populations of wolves native to the Yellowstone area, a newspaper reporter who covered the debate over wolf "reintroduction" to Yellowstone during and after the mid-1990s, and one of the litigants who sued the US Fish and Wildlife Service to prevent the reintroduction of wolves--is uniquely qualified to provide this intensely personal perspective on, and detailed record about, the debate over wolf reintroduction to the northern Rockies.

Consequently, Yellowstone Wolves provides an unequalled background that frames well the recently implemented circumstances of wolf management in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming--where the status and future of wolves are still being manipulated by opposing interests. Will they be protected by legal action, or variously and simultaneously managed as protected resources, game, and unwanted predators? An epilogue discusses these issues as well.

The Foreword by internationally recognized mammalogist and canid expert Ronald M. Nowak provides authoritative context for understanding (a) the broader (global) significance of endangered species management and (b) the record, and trends, of the United States in managing the biological diversity and heritage of the country and adhering to the mandates of the Endangered Species Act, as well as (c) appreciating the unique perspective that author Cat Urbigkit provides in Yellowstone Wolves.

Yellowstone Wolves demonstrates well the diverse, complex, and passionate views that can be represented in what might appear to be even relatively simple perspectives on, or decisions influencing, environmental management.