Times change, though. Wolves were reintroduced into the park in 1995, where they are now protected. They have since been credited with rebalancing its ecosystem, keeping elk numbers in check and reversing the effects of overgrazing. But despite proof that wolves encourage a wide range of flora and fauna to flourish, Nathan Varley of Yellowstone Wolf Tracker says not all attitudes have changed.
“Wolves are still lightning rods for controversy,” he explains. “I feel like very little of it has gone away since their reintroduction.”
Yellowstone Wolf Tracker was a pioneer in offering wolf-watching tours in the park. Now those same wolves are acknowledged as a major draw. Sadly, however, when it comes to what happens outside the protection of Yellowstone, attitudes are still stuck in the past.
“They’re a huge attraction, a big part of our economy,” says Nathan. “But a lot of people don’t realise the wolves they’re coming to see are under siege. Yellowstone is a refuge, but if the wolves leave the park they have a high likelihood of dying by hunting or trapping. By allowing this, the state authorities are killing the goose that lays the golden egg.”
You can’t stop wild wolves roaming, so what’s the solution? “We want to see that message get out there,” says Nathan, “to put more pressure on the states from visitors urging them to do the right thing.”