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Doug Smith of the Yellowstone Gray Wolf Restoration Project: "They're just like us"

Jeremy Weber
Yellowstone wolf in the woods

"Our problems with wolves stem from jealousy and competition...they're just like us," says Doug Smith, Yellowstone National Park wildlife biologist.

Smith is the leader of the Yellowstone Gray Wolf Restoration Project, a project started in the mid-90s to correct the extermination of wolves that happened in the late 19th century, an era before the concept of ecosystems was well understood. Smith says that almost all predators in the park were eradicated due to a human competition with wolves for prey animals. This is a theme that continues today, with ranchers and residents who live on the edges of the park.

"Yellowstone is public land and it's largely wild country; and I think it's important to keep it that way, so these big predators have a place to live," he says. "But the next ring out, you're on this human dominated landscape, and a person with a private business of raising livestock has valid concerns."

Credit Jim Peaco / Yellowstone National Park
Two grizzly bears and wolf near bison carcass in Lamar River

Wolves need large, wild tracks of land. With growing human population and development, Smith is concerned for wolves and other predator species.

"Places like Yellowstone and the public land that surrounds it could become much rarer in the future. I think we need to be aware of that and we need to talk about it, and right now it's not a large debate."

On the plus side, unlike many other issues in the U.S., Smith says this one is not driven by party lines.

"The wolf issue is a great example of where it has been bipartisan. That gives me a great deal of hope."


Douglas Smith will present "Twenty Years of Yellowstone Wolves: Reintroduction to Recovery" at 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 3, in Iowa State University's Memorial Union Great Hall. Smith's talk is Iowa State's 50th Anniversary Paul L. Errington Memorial Lecture, and is free and open to the public.

Wildlife DayEnvironment
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River