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Wolves For Rocky Mountain?


Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado is home to elk. Lots and lots of elk. In fact, there are so many elk -- roughly 3,000 -- that park officials are trying to figure out a way to reduce the elk herds by a third or more so they don't over-browse the park's aspen and willow stands.
    One possible solution that has come up for consideration is returning wolves to the park. They've certainly done the job in Yellowstone National Park, where the northern elk herd was way over-populated before wolves were returned to the park in the mid-1990s. Today there's a much better balance between prey and predator in Yellowstone, and many other animals and plant life are benefiting from that balance.
    But Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain are two incredibly different parks, and what works in Yellowstone might not work in Rocky Mountain. A key concern is that wolves would not stay in Rocky Mountain National Park, but decide to check out surrounding areas, such as Boulder and Loveland, where they would get into a heckuva lot of trouble with livestock and pets and people.


Under one alternative, only a few wolves would be released in Rocky Mountain National Park, and they would be fitted with radio collars, tracked constantly, and returned to the park if they left it. Another alternative, which sounds ridiculous, is for sharpshooters to be used to cull the elk herds. That solution was used in Yellowstone decades ago and it turned into a PR nightmare.
     It seems to me much more good, and success, could be had simply by trapping elk and shipping them to other states for recovery programs. Not too many years ago elk from Yellowstone were used to repopulate Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Surely there are other parks, and states, where similar programs could be implemented.

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