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Wolves get help to make a comeback in the West

wolf howling

January 30, 1996
Web posted at: 8:00 a.m. EST

From Correspondent Sharon Collins

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyoming (CNN) -- More wolves are returning to the wild West. Last week, 20 Canadian wolves arrived in Montana and Idaho, joining animals released last year.

The wolves were captured earlier this month in British Columbia and flown to Bozeman, Montana. Eleven then traveled to Yellowstone National Park, while the other nine were sent to other federal lands in central Idaho.

The operation was financed in part by Defenders of Wildlife and other conservation groups. But many ranchers, like Susan Brailsford, object to the project. They say their livestock will become lunch for the wolves.

wolves running

"I think people have a real romantic notion about wolves and I don't think that's realistic," Brailsford says. "It's a wild predator that stands waist high and with claws this big." (162K AIFF sound or 162K WAV sound)

But Defenders of Wildlife has offered to help the ranchers.

"Defenders will reimburse them at market value for their losses," said Rodger Schlickeisen of the organization. "In fact, we've only had to pay $267 for some lambs that were lost."

The wolves are expected to stay in pens for two months before they are set free. Once they are released, wolf recovery leader Mike Phillips believes there will be plenty for the wolves to eat.

"Holy mackerel," he says, "there's some 3,000 bison out there."

In January 1995, wolves were released into Yellowstone National Park. Since then, experts say, they have had a remarkably successful year.

puppy

"They brought in 14 wolves last year," said Schlickeisen. "They lost one to a hunter and one to a road accident, but we still have 20 wolves because we had two females that had pups."

Even with one good year though, scientists caution there are no guarantees where nature is concerned.

"You can't restore a population in two years," Phillips says. (77K AIFF sound or 77K WAV sound)

The goal is to have up to 100 wolves in Yellowstone over the next few years. Biologists believe putting wolves back in the park is the last link in rebuilding and restoring Yellowstone's natural heritage.

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