Do wolves need wilderness? |

Do wolves need wilderness?

Allen Best

BANFF, Alberta – Do you need wilderness to have wolves? That conventional thinking is disputed by David L. Mech, the renowned American wolf researcher, as well as a famous Italian wolf researcher, Luigi Boitani.

In Italy, said Boitani in a keynote address at the World Wolf Congress, “wolves and humans can live in an integrated co-existence in the same area rather than having to be segregated forever in separate districts.”

Boitani said that in some villages in Italy, wolves come into people’s gardens at night. “Wolves living near human settlements do not have a degraded life,” he said.

The Rocky Mountain Outlook also reports evidence at the conference of a new dialogue between wildlife researchers and cattle producers. Erik Butters, who raises cattle on 20,000 acres in Alberta, says that the 100 cattle lost to depredation by wolves in Alberta each year is “absolutely miniscule in the size of the livestock economy.” However, he adds, “it can be very significant to an individual producer.”

But several speakers called on conservationists to be more honest about how wolves impact hunters. One speaker, University of Alberta researcher Mark Hebblewhite, pointed to evidence that wolves can limit populations of elk and other ungulates.

“There is a bit of a hypocrisy sometimes in the way that conservationists interpret the same scientific data,” he said. “They are more willing to accept sloppy evidence on songbirds, let’s say, than they are negative evidence of wolves on elk for elk hunters,” he said.

Wolves were eradicated in Alberta in about 1950 at the behest of ranchers, but naturally re-established themselves in the 1980s. A small population now exists in primarily Banff National Park, but when wolves stray outside the park they are often shot.

Feds want beefed-up security at airport

GUNNISON – Wonder why the federal government is running up such a massive debt? One small part of the answer is found at the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport.

A smallish affair, the airport has no more than a few flights per day, and police estimate they can respond to calls there within three minutes. But in the wake of Sept. 11, the federal government wants on-site police presence and will pay all but 60 cents per hour for this added security, reports the Crested Butte News.

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