Commentary: Time to bring back wolves
By Joseph S. Butera
The First Law of Ecology: Complexity brings forth stability: The more complex an ecosystem is, the more able it is to withstand environmental stress.
E.O. Wilson coined the phrase Bio-diversity, which is another way of saying of keeping an ecosystem more complex and healthy.
We all need to start thinking of ecosystems as whole units, all the niches contributing to the workings of ecological systems as a whole and intact units of living things.
Predators play a key role in keeping the ecology healthy and complex, by removing the the less fit animals allowing the stronger more fit to survive. They also help control diseases which affect us, such as Chronic Wasting Disease, CWD, Lyme disease, mosquito-borne illnesses, and many others.
There is a fallacy that many people believe, that predators control the prey species. It’s the other way around, the prey species control the number of predators. What predators do is control the HEALTH of their prey species, by making the prey stronger and more alert it makes it harder for hunters to kill their game animals. I guess this means a hunter that gets a deer in wolf country is just a more SKILLED hunter.
Ecology is a relationship among living organisms and between organisms and their environment. The word Ecology is derived from the greek word OIKOS, meaning house; therefore it is literally the study of our house, Planet Earth. By removing all the predators… life will cease to exist! It’s just a fact!!
The last reported wolf killed in New York state was back in 1896. It wasn’t until 1993 when the next identified wild wolf was shot and killed by a hunter in the Adirondacks. In December of 2021, a wild wolf was shot and killed in Central New York and DNA testing confirmed it was 99.8% wolf!
Eleven wolves have been killed in New York state and or the northeast since 1993. Some believe more wolves have been killed in the northeast going back to 1980’s, if they were wild we will never know. How many more wild wolves have been killed and not reported to conservation offices, organizations and or government agencies. Sad!
Regardless, many other wolves killed could have been wild wolves which means wolf habitat exists and wolf dispersal is happening. The NYSDEC along with the other conservation agencies in the northeast must develop wolf conservation plans to help protect these ecologically important canids.
The NYSDEC needs to educate hunters NOT to shot large canids Theses state agencies should be handing out pamphlets with every hunting ticket sold, explaining that wolves are not to be shot at anytime. The February killing contest also need to needs to be abolished! Killing as many coyotes as one wishes and going for the biggest animals is a 1920’s mentally and needs to end, not to mention that wolves are also bing being killed in the process.
For God-sake, NYSDEC have no interest in restoring elk back into New York’s forest because of fear of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). If they would understand the laws of ecology’s predatory/prey relationship, the DEC would understand with wolves present CWD would not be able to take hold of the unguent population.
Wolves and other large predators tend to take the sick and older animals, CWD manifests itself very slowly in deer, elk moose. Wolves would take down these slower weaker animals, and the wolf is asymptomatic to the disease.
Wolves are deemed wild or domesticated through a process known as nitrogen=(N), and or carbon=(C) Isotope analysis. Scientists try to determine which foods an animal may have been eating by detecting the amount of nitrogen/carbon in the animals tissues & bones. In a addition to tissue and bones analysis, there are other tests which scientists check for such as, teeth, nails, fur, and there are other tests as well.
The theory behind nitrogen isotopes testing, foods grown with nitrogen fertilizers, this nitrogen is passed down into the plants tissue, passing the (N) atoms as isotopes onto the animals who consumed these food. Foods rich in (N) would be, grains, wheat, corn, soy beans, carrots and other Farm grown foods.
Animals fed commercially produced foods like Pet foods and such produces as corn, carrots, potatoes etc retain this mineral. (N). I often wonder how many black bears in the northeast have a high content of nitrogen isotopes in their tissue and bones. Because of the foods scrapes they consume. Carnivores feeding on wild game such as deer, moose ,rabbits, etc, would have more of a concentration of carbon isotopes.
But, this is where it gets interesting! Although the NYSDEC clams many of these wolves are not wild because of the nitrogen isotope contents in some of their tissues. It is still possible for wild wolves to have a higher than normal concentration of nitrogen in their body tissues.
Many people in the northeast feed wildlife such as deer, black bear, raccoons, and the foods they are feeding these animals are commercially made Pet foods and table scraps left outside by pet owners. Many of these foods are made-up of meats, corn, carrots and other grains all high in (N). People feeding deer and other animals corn, carrots, and other grains would explain why some of these wolves killed in the NE would have higher nitrogen isotopes in their body tissues.
I’m sure if one was to test wild black bears in New York State many would have higher nitrogen isotopes in their body tissue, the same as any wildlife feeding from humans leftover dinners and or Pet foods.
I personally believes wild wolves have been coming south into New York State from Canada and the Great Lakes region for many years, only to be killed by coyote hunters, such as the recent animal killed in December of 2021. How sad it is that governmental agencies are doing nothing to protect wolves coming into NYS.
I had a friend in the northern Adirondacks who told back in early 1990’s that there were two wolves coming to his property. My friend feed these wolves, black bears and other critters dog food and leftover food scraps rich in nitrogen. Back then I did not totally believe they were wolves, but in retrospect I think they where.
Minnesota’s hunting community are a breed of their own, sportsmen see all aspects of wildlife as important, including their predator population. Perhaps this is because wolves in the northern parts of the state have always been part of the hunting ecology. The Minnesota’s Department of Environmental Conservation see wolves as a natural resource. Not all hunters have the same feeling about wolves but the majority do! I also believe the hunting community see that when wolves are present, the state is not burdened with Chronic Wasting Disease in their ungulate population.
The big question going forward, will the New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation do what is needed to support the natural recolonization of wolves into New York state. I believe the public would welcome these large canids back into the wilds of our state. Many younger and some older sportsman’s support the return of this majestic animal, let’s tell our political leaders that we support the wolf’s return.
Joseph S. Butera is president and co-founder of the Northeast Ecological Recovery Society
Wolf (Canis lupus) photo by Larry Master
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