New College of the Humanities

Fighting Outlaws, Returning Wolves

Karen Jones examines the significance of the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park.

In January 1995, a motorcade escorting fourteen caged wolves passed under the Roosevelt Arch, the imposing gateway to Yellowstone National Park, northern Wyoming, in the United States of America. Flag-waving children, camera-wielding press, and emotional onlookers lined the road as if welcoming a president or returning military hero. After an absence of nearly seventy years, wolves returned to Yellowstone amidst a flurry of popular activity. However, the scheme to return canine denizens to the American Rockies had proved intensely controversial. Radical environmental groups protested that there were insufficient protective measures for the returning wolves, whilst ranching lobbies filed legal injunctions against the project. For several years, a court case threatened the removal of Yellowstone’s newly restored packs. A secure future for park wolves was guaranteed only in January 2000, when the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favour of the reintroduction. Over 150 wolves, from eight packs, now roam Yellowstone’s forests and river valleys, attesting to a radical reversal of fortune for the maligned predator.

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