With special thanks to Hollywood, and propaganda financed by the hunting and ranching industries, wolves have gained a reputation for being terrifying and mean, but in reality, they deserve to star as protagonists. And nowhere is that more evident than in the role wolves have played in Yellowstone National Park, where their reintroduction after 70 years wondrously transformed the landscape back to its natural condition, thereby helping to sustain many species, including our own. Nonetheless, these endangered animals are routinely shot and killed in that very region year after year – legally, no less – despite all of the progress they have led. It’s time we stop the senseless killings and safeguard this honorable species before it’s too late.

As explained in the short documentary entitled How Wolves Change Rivers, the wolves that originally roamed Yellowstone National Park were poisoned en masse during the late 1800s and early 1900s as a means of predator control. Degradation of the park’s gorgeous landscape naturally ensued, as populations of grazing animals, like deer, blossomed unchecked and devoured the park’s grasslands down to dirt. Without enough vegetation to keep the riverbanks in place, the park’s waterways became muddled with land erosion and meandered into wider, shallower bodies that provided lesser support for many area species.

When wolves were finally reintroduced in 1995, they largely forced these deer to graze away from the valleys and gorges where they were easy prey, which allowed those areas to immediately regenerate. This set off a domino effect of advantageous change, starting with new vegetation and trees, and thus more birds. Beaver populations benefitted from the new tree growth and built dams that provided new habitat for otters, muskrats, ducks, fish, reptiles, amphibians and more. Bears, too, enjoyed greater feasts of berries as those trees thrived. And that was just the beginning.

Myriad other species were aided by the changes wolves sparked, including hawks, ravens, foxes, badgers, weasels…and humans, for which the regenerated forest reduced soil erosion and stabilized the riverbanks, bringing Yellowstone’s waterways back into balance and ensuring clean drinking water for the citizens of Montana and other states.

What’s clear is that this ecosystem needs wolves, and yet the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission allows them to be hunted and poached year after year in the areas immediately surrounding Yellowstone National Park, where the wolves innately wander without any notion of the dangers that await them just steps outside the park’s invisible borders.

Even if only a few of these predators are killed during this year’s annual wolf hunting season, the ramifications are many. As a representative of the Humane Society (HSUS) explains, wolves are “highly intelligent, familial animals,” and surviving pack members “suffer trauma and experience disruption when fellow pack members are killed….This disruption results in packs disbanding,” and “elimination of the breeding pair can lead to the loss of pups or yearlings by slow starvation.” And as history shows, what starts as one or a few, systematically affects not just the pack, but the ecosystem as a whole. We can’t allow this happen in Yellowstone again.

Sign this petition on Care2 demanding that the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission ban wolf trophy hunting and trapping in the area immediately bordering Yellowstone National Park and craft permanent cross-boundary protection for the park’s wolves.

Image source: miroslav chytil/Shutterstock