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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

February 2, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Wolves and the ecosystem

Living in harmony with the predator

I wish to thank Sandi Doughton for reporting on recent research that documents the benefits wolves offer to ecosystems, and for informing the public of the adverse impacts rippling across the web of life when wolves are killed off [“Can wolves restore an ecosystem?” Times, page one, Jan. 25].

The studies performed by Oregon State University professors William Ripple and Robert Beschta invalidate the assumptions that early European settlers had, and some people today have, about the apex predator. As it turns out, many species benefit from the presence of wolves: aspen, willow, eagles, ravens and even fish.

Surprisingly, a recent study at Grand Teton National Park found that pronghorn fawn are surviving to adulthood at a higher rate because of wolves. It turns out that wolves scare away coyotes, who prey on newborn pronghorn. Running much too fast, pronghorn don’t often elicit interest from wolf packs in the search for sustenance.

When I visited Yellowstone National Park two years ago, I saw gray wolves in the wild for the first time. Observing them, I was impressed by their sense of community, the genuine affection they show one another, and I was moved by their howls.

When Lewis and Clark traveled through the Pacific Northwest, they encountered a number of wolves; we should cherish our natural American heritage. I believe that with public education and sensitive management techniques, we can live harmoniously with this remarkable and endangered animal.

Millions of dollars have been dropped by tourists in the Yellowstone region wanting to see canis lupus in its natural habitat. Surely, lifting the economy is one ripple effect anyone can appreciate.

— Mauricio Austin, Vancouver

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