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New York at a glance

Wolves once existed throughout New York but removal began shortly after European settlement. Currently no established wolf populations live in this state. However, due to the close proximity of viable wolf populations in Canada, wolves may return to this state in the future. Private groups have promoted and studied the possibility of reintroducing wolves to the Adirondack State Park in northern New York, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has no official plans to undertake a reintroduction project here.

Human Relationships

Attitudes and Issues

New York Wolf Recovery: Garnering Community Input
by Nina Fascione – Defenders of Wildlife, 2000

The howl of the wild wolf has been missing from the northeastern United States for over 100 years. In the 1992 Recovery Plan for the Eastern Timber Wolf, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service identified the Adirondack Park in upstate New York and two areas in New England as possible recovery sites for the eastern wolf (Canis lupus lycaon). However numerous landscape barriers, such as the St. Lawrence Seaway and extensive urban and agricultural lands, and human-caused obstacles, such as legal hunting of wolves in southeastern Canada, create a situation where natural recolonization is unlikely, especially in New York.

In 1995, Defenders of Wildlife initiated a campaign to investigate the biological and social potential for restoring wolves to New York. In addition to conducting public education and outreach, one of the steps Defenders took was to offer to fund a scientific feasibility study on wolf restoration. Because there was some strong local resistance to the idea, Defenders worked with Paul Smith’s College of the Adirondacks, a neutral third party, to create a Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC) on wolf recovery. The CAC is a diverse group of Adirondack stakeholders who represent timber, hunting, and recreational industries, as well as landowners, environmentalists and biologists, among others. Committee members were asked to develop a list of concerns they feel their constituencies have about possible wolf recovery and from this list create a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the study. Once this was accomplished, Defenders mailed the RFP to over 200 universities and interested scientists.

Four proposals were received, and the CAC selected two contractors to begin studies. They hired the Conservation Biology Institute (CBI) in Corvallis, Oregon to conduct a biological feasibility study, and Cornell University to investigate the sociological implications of wolf restoration. In December of 1999, CBI released its long-awaited study. The complete results can be found at www.consbio.org. Through their study, the researchers determined that while the Adirondacks could hold a small population of wolves, there were questions about the long-term viability of a wolf population due to regional development. A second concern to the CBI researchers was the tendency of eastern wolves to hybridize with coyotes, a problem from which the red wolf program in North Carolina suffers at present.

Cornell completed and released their study in early 2000. Researchers polled 422 Adirondack residents and another 501 residents from throughout the state to ask questions about their attitudes and beliefs on wolf recovery. They surveyed issues such as views of potential impacts of wolf recovery and economic benefits. They found that Adirondack residents are fairly evenly split in their attitudes towards potential wolf restoration. And, while most statewide residents hold positive attitudes towards restoration, they believe that local residents should take much responsibility for wildlife management decisions affecting the Adirondacks. Cornell is quick to point out that the survey should not be taken as a vote for or against wolf restoration, but rather an indication of how people felt at the time they were polled. The results from this report can be obtained by calling Defenders.

At present, Defenders and other wolf groups are taking a broad, regional approach to Northeast wolf restoration. Restoration in the Adirondacks should be part of a larger wolf restoration effort. To this end, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing the development of a recovery plan for the northeast region, and Defenders is supporting this effort. In July, 2000 Defenders worked with the U.S. FWS to organize a three and a half day workshop on wolf restoration in the northeast. The workshop brought together more than 50 scientists, educators, industry representatives, state and federal wildlife agency personnel and other stakeholders to discuss the myriad issues surrounding potential wolf restoration in the Northeast. It was hopefully the first of many such productive meetings.

To learn more about wolf recovery in the northeastern U.S., contact Defenders of Wildlife at (202) 682-9400 or visit their website at www.defenders.org.

Related Links

New York Department of Environmental Conservation – gray wolf

Wolf Conservation Center – New York

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