Friday, May 26, 2006

Let nature handle the return of the wolf to Adirondacks


Over the past few years, several environmental groups have pushed to restore the wolf to the Adirondacks, and possibly even to the Catskills. The thought is to reintroduce the gray wolf to its natural habitat.

It was thought that the last native wolf was killed in the Adirondacks in 1899. But last year, I told you about a gray wolf that was shot near Northville in the southern Adirondacks in 2002. A DNA test by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed it was a gray wolf.

Where did this animal come from?

The closest wolves are in northern Maine and Canada. Wolves feed primarily on large animals. They follow migrating caribou herds in northern Canada, and in Maine and Alaska, they feed on moose. The main diet for those living in Yellowstone Park is elk.

The Adirondacks have a small moose population and a somewhat larger deer population. So, what are these large predators going to eat? As far as wild animals are concerned, wolves are at the top of the food chain. Since the eastern coyote is already present, there’s no niche to fill.

I was thrilled to see a wolf during a visit to Yellowstone Park a few years ago, but the ranchers and residents of that area don’t want them around.

It’s the same thing here. A recent study concluded that the majority of the people in New York are in favor of reintroducing the wolf. But most of those people don’t live in the sparsely populated mountains of northern New York. Like those who live in the Yellowstone area, Adirondack residents don’t want wolves, either.

Another problem exists. If the wolf was reintroduced to its native habitat, which wolf would be stocked? Environmentalists want to bring back the gray wolf, but DNA testing of the wolf killed in 1899 showed it was actually a red wolf. Its pelt is in the Albany Museum.

So how can you reintroduce a specie that may not have lived here in the past?

As the debate continues, several organizations were contacted to determine their positions on restoring the wolf to the Adirondacks.

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