Mon, Nov 06, 2006 - Page 9 News List

Rescue of wolves from near-extinction upsets US ranchers

After being pushed to the brink of extinction in the early 1900s, more than 1,200 of the predators are roaming Idaho, Montana and Wyoming once again

AFP , SALMON, IDAHO

Wildlife managers say the rising wolf population naturally results in more conflicts between wolves and livestock but critics say the killing illustrates the problem of leaving wolf management solely in state hands.

"The discussions here are not about wolf conservation but about wolf control," said Suzanne Stone, northern Rockies representative with Defenders of Wildlife, an environmental organization.

In Idaho, where anti-wolf sentiments tend to be expressed in concert with anti-government views, the conflict shows no sign of quieting.

"It's interesting that wolves generate so much polarity," said Brad Compton, big game manager with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. "No other wildlife generates this kind of extreme reaction -- on both sides."

Compton is among wildlife experts who expect the discord to subside when the state is allowed to establish a hunting season for wolves just as it does with bears and other predators. And they believe it will take some of the monster out of the myth.

"People's feelings about wolves have to do with symbolism rather than scientific facts," said Ed Bangs, Montana-based wolf recovery coordinator for the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

"People who are afraid of wolves describe them with all the qualities they would attribute to the spawn of Satan: they're greedy, dangerous and cruel. People who see them as providing balance in nature think they're wonderful and can do no wrong. The truth is, they're just another animal," Bangs said.

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