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Wildlife

‘The Real Wolf’ reveals facts, impacts

Written by Saige Albert

When Ted Lyon, a renowned trial lawyer, former Texas State Senator, legislator and author, first began looking at the issue of reintroduction of wolves, he took the side of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), arguing that, through his experience, he couldn’t see the agency taking steps that would harm wildlife. 

“I couldn’t believe that the U.S. FWS would do something bad for wildlife,” Lyon told the Roundup. “I defended the issue of putting wolves back in Yellowstone. How could 66 wolves put into Yellowstone and the Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness kill all these elk and moose?”

After a pheasant hunting trip in Montana in 2007, Lyon vowed to do research to find out whether or not wolves were impacting the ecosystem. 

“I tried to defend FWS biologists to the men I was hunting with, and these guys from Montana jumped on me like a pack of wolves,” he says. “It piqued my interest.”

“Those hunters were right,” Lyon adds, “and no one was telling the story.”

Starting a story

Lyon started researching the subject of the wolf reintroduction to the Greater Yellowstone Area with the help of two law students. 

“We spent the summer of 2008-09 researching, and these two young, bright law students looked at how we could file a lawsuit, change a law or take some legal strategy so the state could manage wolves,” he explains. “Initially, we thought it was that the state didn’t have good lawyers, but it wasn’t the law’s fault.”

Wildlife cannot be managed from a courthouse, Lyon emphasizes, adding that states should be able to manage their own wildlife. 

“Then, I, along with others, put together a group of 13 different wildlife organizations who have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to wildlife conservation,” he continues. “I came up with a political plan. I grew up in politics, and I knew how to do things politically.”

Away from the law

“I knew there was no way we were going to win in a lawsuit,” Lyon remarks, noting that as a lawyer, he has seen success in the courtroom. “The only thing we can do is go to Congress and change the law.”

A political solution to remove the wolf from the endangered species list, says Lyon, is the best solution. 

“That is the only way to change this,” he adds. “We have to come together with wildlife groups and work together again.”

Lyon began working with endangered species law when he instigated a change in the Endangered Species Act (ESA) – the first substantive changes in the ESA’s 36-year history, at that time. The changes were made through a bill that passed Congress in 2011.

Writing a book

“After we got the bill passed, I wanted others to know the truth about wolves, and I wanted to publish a book that would tell the truth about wolves,” Lyon says.

He joined forces with co-author Will Graves to compile as much information as possible to arm citizens with facts to use in defending themselves against wolves. 

“My co-author Will Graves knew many of these people after writing a book several years ago called Wolves in Russia: Anxiety through the Ages,” Lyon explains. “These people are all experts in their fields.”

Lyon’s 351-page book, titled The Real Wolf, delves into many of the intricacies involving wolves and wolf management. 

Goals 

In The Real Wolf, Lyon and his collaborators put together an extensive compilation of the science, politics, history and economics surrounding wolves. 

“The truth needs to be out there, and the myths about wolves need to be revealed,” Lyon comments. 

To start, he says that wolves regularly kill people around the world, wolves affect livestock dramatically, and they devastate wildlife herds across their range. In addition, wolves cause dramatic economic impacts.

Lyon extensively backs these claims throughout The Real Wolf.

“I want the truth to be known about wolves so people have a weapon in their arsenal to argue with officials and environmentalists,” Lyon comments. 

Next steps

After reading The Real Wolf and arming themselves with fact, the first step the public needs to tackle to alleviate the challenges related to wolves is to delist the species. 

“Wolves are not an endangered species,” Lyon says. “There are over 60,000 wolves in Canada alone. I, and other scientists, believe there are several thousand wolves in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.”

Despite recent legal challenges, Lyon also notes that Wyoming must continue to pursue its case regarding wolf management in the legal system.

“Wyoming cannot just let the decision go,” he says.

Political strategy

“The real endgame is politics,” Lyon says, “and we have to bring groups together.”

Because the sporting industry is impacted by wolves, he comments that agriculture and others must draw outdoorsmen and women into the conversation.

“The sporting industry in the U.S. is the most powerful political industry in the country, and we have to bring them together,” explains Lyon. “There are so many people who like to hunt, fish and view wildlife. We need to get these groups together.”

In working together, Lyon also emphasizes that a bipartisan effort must be pursued. If the issue becomes a partisan issue, no positive outcome will be achieved. 

“We have to have both sides to win,” Lyon says. 

“Wyoming has two Senators and a Representative who are very good, but we need to draw in both parties,” Lyon says. “We need a bill to totally remove wolves from the Endangered Species List. Once we do that, Wyoming can manage wolves on their own.”

The Real Wolf

The Real Wolf, a 351-page book by Ted Lyon and Will Graves, looks at the science, politics and economics surrounding wolves in the U.S. 

The book can be purchased in a variety of venues, including many bookstores and on Amazon. 

“The Real Wolf has been a best seller in its category on amazon.com for several weeks,” Lyon comments.

However, the best place to find more information and purchase a book is at therealwolf.com, Lyon’s website.

A look inside

In his book, Ted Lyon looks at wildlife and livestock impacts created by wolves, among a wide variety of other topics.

“I’ve personally witnessed the destruction of elk and moose in Yellowstone Park,” he says. “Elk counts decreased dramatically from 19,000 in 1995 to 6,000 in 2008. In 2013, there were a little fewer than 4,000 elk.”

Lyon notes that moose populations have nearly been eliminated, as well. 

Additionally, in some areas – near Gardiner, Mont., for example – nearly 2,000 elk licenses have been eliminated, resulting in loss of income for communities.

“When hunters come into these areas, they bring thousands of dollars into the local economy,” Lyon comments.

For livestock producers, wolves are more destructive than simply killing calves. 

“Wolves affect livestock dramatically – and not just in kills, but also in the loss of weight per cow or calf,” he says, stating that up to 100 pounds per season may be lost by cows and calves. “Those numbers dramatically affect the bottom line for ranchers.”

In New Mexico, wolves have pushed some ranchers out of business, and in North Carolina, the red wolf – a wolf, coyote hybrid – is “a disaster for livestock producers,” Lyon says.

“Wolves are the most destructive animals on the face of the earth,” he comments.

 

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..