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Wolf Restoration to the Adirondacks:
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Public Participation in the Decision

Restoring the Wolf to the Adirondacks


As mentioned earlier, restoring a wolf population should be considered a permanent act that will forever entail intensive population control. Originally it was only through the use of poisoning, den digging, bounties, aerial hunting, steel trapping, and snaring that wolves were eradicated. Poisoning is now illegal, and public distaste for many of these other techniques is high and increasing. Therefore, once a wolf population is reestablished, eliminating it will be very difficult and expensive (Mech 1998).

Meanwhile, a restored wolf population will continue to proliferate and colonize new areas so long as there is adequate prey. Each pair of wolves produces an average of five to six pups per year (Mech 1970), and within 2 to 3 years most offspring disperse over distances of up to 886 kilometers (Fritts and Mech 1981; Fritts 1983; Messier 1985; Mech 1987; Fuller 1989; Gese and Mech 1991; Mech et al. 1998). Thus in New York State, even the average minimum dispersal distance of 77 kilometers (Gese and Mech 1991) would take wolves from the Adirondack Park to half of the state, including within easy colonizing distance of Catskill Park.

Because deer are among the main prey of wolves and deer are common in New York and surrounding states (Mattfeld 1984), wolves can be expected to spread quickly and colonize most of the rest of the state unless controlled. Wolf populations in Michigan and Wisconsin increased at average annual rates of 38% to 40% (Michigan Department of Natural Resources 1997; Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources 1998). To control a wolf population, 30% to 50% of the wolves must be killed by humans each year (Mech 1970; Peterson, Woolington, and Bailey 1984; Fuller 1989; Ballard et al. 1997).

It is true that many areas of New York would benefit by wolves controlling deer numbers, for deer can be pests to gardeners, orchardists, and other agriculturalists and cause millions of dollars of damage to vehicles, not to mention human injury and death. However, most areas of New York State outside of the Adirondacks support many farms with livestock and pets. Wolves prey on both, and although the proportion of livestock actually killed may be low, such depredations cause ill feelings in the rural community (Fritts 1982; Fritts et al. 1992; Fritts and Paul 1989). Furthermore, fear of wolf attacks on children is a concern (Minnesota Poll 1998), especially because instances of this behavior were documented recently in India (Jhala and Sharma 1997; Cook 1997).


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