Wolf introduction detailed in Urbigkit’s latestWritten by Jennifer Womack
With five children’s books published, Urbigkit’s latest work is geared towards adults. In the heavily documented first-hand account, she tells the early day story of wolves in Wyoming and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) introduction of Canadian wolves in the 1990s. Urbigkit and her husband Jim were litigants against the FWS in its efforts to introduce Canadian wolves to the region.
“We were not livestock producers at that time, although years later we would become sheep ranchers,” writes Urbigkit. “Our objective was simple — we wanted wolf recovery in the Yellowstone area to be based on the native wolf population. We despised the reintroduction proposal and all that it meant for native species.”
While the FWS discredited the presence of native wolves, Urbigkit’s book offers a convincing argument to the contrary. She also tells of several native wolf encounters leading up to and after the introduction of Canadian wolves. FWS’s handling of those discoveries is equally interesting and often shocking.
“In the DEIS (Draft Environmental Impact Statement), FWS dismissed the idea of providing an alternative that would allow for the recovery of existing wolves,” writes Urbigkit. “The agency dismissed this alternative based on two false allegations — that no pack activity had been documented in the Yellowstone area since 1926 and that an intensive monitoring effort was underway that would have detected the presence of any wolves in the study area.”
“That animals native to and from these two areas — the Northern Rocky Mountains of the U.S. and western Canada, respectively — represented to different subspecies was the focus of the debate during the 1990s over wolf recovery in the Yellowstone area,” writes Urbigkit. FWS, she says, only recognized the gray wolf as one species for reasons of Endangered Species Act protections. “During the 1990s, Yellowstone’s native wolf, Canis lupus irremotus, became the subject of a brilliant battle to both protect and eradicate,” writes Urbigkit.
“In short, according to Nowak,” writes Urbigkit of former FWS employee, taxonomist and author of the book’s forward, Ronald Nowak, “Yellowstone’s native wolves were similar to Minnesota’s wolves, but different from their Canadian neighbors. Yet it was the western Canadian wolf that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service placed into YNP (Yellowstone National Park). The battle in Wyoming over the wolf recovery experiment would eventually focus on this point and fact — the native Yellowstone wolves were different than the Canadian wolves.”
Urbigkit writes, “Young and Goldman’s The Wolves of North America maintained that the subspecies of wolf native to the Yellowstone region was Canis lupus irremotus, ‘a light-colored subspecies of medium to rather large size, with skull having a narrow but flattened frontal region. In the same work, Canus lupus occidentalis, the subspecies of wolf from western Canada that the FWS eventually released into the Yellowstone area, was described as ‘the largest of North American wolves, with a large and massive skull.’”
Urbigkit’s book goes on to tell her personal account with wolves as a sheep rancher and as a newspaper reporter. She also shares the story of how wolves impacted her western Wyoming neighbors, the livestock lost, the animals injured and the lives changed.
Book publisher McDonald and Woodward Publishing says, “Yellowstone Wolves contains information that has never been published before — from correspondence to first-hand accounts. It is the first comprehensive compilation specifically on the Yellowstone area’s native wolf, and is the first time the subspecies issue has been examined in detail in a discussion of the controversial Yellowstone wolf reintroduction by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”
Urbigkit will give a reading and lecture with a question and answer period to follow on Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. at the Wyoming State Museum, 2301 Central Avenue in Cheyenne. A reception and book signing will follow. The book is available through your local bookstore or at online sources.