Should Wolves be Reintroduced to the Adirondacks? Are they already here?

The Economics of wolves in Adirondack Park
John Laundre
Dr. John W. Laundré

Education: Ph.D. Idaho State University, 1979
M.S. Northern Michigan University, 1974
B.S. University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, 1971
Areas of Specialty: Wildlife Ecology, Behavior, and Conservation
Research Interests: Wildlife Ecology, Behavior, and Conservation


The debate about whether we should bring wolves back to Adirondack Park is a long, and often, heated
one. On the side for wolves we hear all the arguments about restoring a lost heritage, restoring the
integrity of the ecosystem, restoring the “wildness” of the Park designated to be “forever wild”. On the
side against wolves, we hear the fear of a large predator returning to the landscape, the fear of what
wolves will do to the deer herd, the fear of the economic havoc that would do to the already
economically troubled area. As for the fear of wolves to ourselves, it can and has been easily shown
that this is not grounded in any evidence. Wolves have lived in NorthernMinnesota forever with no
incidences. That is not the real issue. The real driver behind the resistance to wolves, mostly local, is
the potential financial impact of wolves on the region. This financial impact revolves around the
economics of deer hunting, an honored tradition that also brings in money to the local communities and
outfitters and guides in the area, for a short period each fall. If we cut through all the other side issues,
the real issue then is economics, dollars.

Given that it is really an economic issue, then we should look at it economically and ask the question:
does it make sense to base the decision on whether to bring back wolves or not solely on the economics
of a very short seasonal income stream? If that income stream provides ample financial gains for the
region that having wolves would not replace, the answer is yes, keep the wolves out. But does it?
Would wolves only reduce economic income from hunting without any replacement of revenue? If not,
should we not make decisions based on what is the best economic scenario for the region? Should we
not have the economic wellbeing of the region at the basis of our decisions? If so, then it makes
economic sense to compare what hunting brings into the Park versus any possible revenue streams from
having wolves there. Once we make those comparisons, we should then objectively, coldly, decide what
is best for the people of the Park, not just the hunters or the wolf advocates that only visit but the
people who have to live with the decisions to either bring them back or keep them out.
First, the revenue from hunting deer. How many deer hunters come to the Park to hunt deer? That is a
hard number to come up with. The Park encompasses parts of several counties and deer hunters can
hunt within or outside of the Park. However, if we look at the region divided into the different wildlife
management units designated by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), we
can see that there are 7 units that encompass most of the Park with little outside of it. In 2010, deer
hunters in these seven units killed 10,468 deer. How many deer hunters does that represent?
Statewide there were 560,340 deer hunters in 2010 and they killed 231,100 deer for a success rate of
41.2%. If we use that percent success rate for the Park, back estimating, we get approximately 25,400
deer hunters that hunted in the Park. One could argue that the success rate was likely lower in the Park
because of lower deer densities. To get a number of hunters that would reflect a lower success rate,
lets drop it to 20%. This then gives us an upper estimate of 52,300 hunters using the Park. Let’s work
with this range of 25,400 to 52,300 deer hunters. How much revenue would they bring into the Park?
We will not include their license fees in this because that is state level money and little of that actually
goes locally.

Data for New York from the 2006 National survey of fishing, hunting, and wildlife associated recreation
published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that instate hunters spent an average of $677
pursuing deer. This is money spent on equipment, travel, lodging, food, etc. Some of that money would
not be spent locally, e.g. you buy your ammo before you leave home! However, let’s use that figure as a
rough estimate. Based on this figure, those 25,400 to 52,300 deer hunters would spend $17.2 to $35.4
million dollars into the local economy! This is not a figure to take lightly!

Ok, the figures look encouraging. But before we make any decisions, we need to estimate what could
wolves bring in, if any? To estimate that we need to estimate just how many people would come to
Adirondack Park just to see or hear wolves. How do we get this number? When wolves were released
into Yellowstone Park in the mid 1990’s people began to come to the Park just to see and hear them.
How many people? A survey made in 2006 estimated that around 3.5% of the Park visitors came to
Yellowstone Park JUST to see wolves, many from the East! That is, they would not have come to the
Park if the wolves were not there. If we use that figure of 3.5%, we can get an estimate of the number
of additional people who might come to Adirondack Park just for wolves. An estimated 7 to 10 million
people come to Adirondack Park each year. Based on 3.5%, this means that an additional 245,000 to
350,000 people could come to the Park JUST to see or hear wolves. Based on the 2006 survey, wildlife
watchers spend on average $503 dollars per person. This equates to $123.2 to $176.1 MILLION dollars
brought into the Park! This represents over 7 times as much revenue than what hunters bring in! And,
this revenue stream is year round!

There are currently 100 wolves in Yellowstone National Park, an area less than half the size of
Adirondack Park. IF Adirondack Park could support 100 wolves (controversy still surrounds the
feasibility of the Park supporting wolves), then those 100 wolves would be worth approximately $1.2 to
$1.7 million dollars EACH per year!! At 60,000 deer in the Park, each deer is only worth $2,053 to
$2,900 each per year. If I had to choose between a product that brought in $1.2 million dollars
compared to one that only brought in only $2,000 per unit, I would be an economic idiot to choose the
latter one! Yet that is what the people in Adirondack Park are doing!

Keep in mind in all of this, it is not an either or proposition. Hunters may want you to think wolves will
kill off all the deer but they won’t. There will still be deer hunting in the Park, bringing in its relatively
small revenue stream. No matter how you look at it, wolves would be good business for Adirondack
Park. The people of the Park are literally short-changing themselves by not looking at the economics of
returning wolves.

 


Steve & WEndy discuss Adirondack Wolf Reintroduction

Lamar Canyon wolf pack member, by SteveLamar Canyon wolf pack member, Sept 2012
Above, Lamar Canyon wolf pack member, Lamar valley, Yellowstone, Sept. 2012, by Steve Hall. Below, wolf-spotters, Lamar Valley.

How Did We Get Dogs From Wolves? Steve Hall


Predator Defense Website
Wolf Spotters in the Lamar Valley Sept. 2012
Wof Watchers in the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone.

The Co-Evolution of Wolves and Humans
Wolfgang M. Schleidt/Michael D. Shalter

Zeebie by Alex HallZeebie, by Julie Clark, Nov 2013
Zeebie by Alex Hall, left, and by Julie Clark, right
Alex with Zeebie and Cree
Zeebie, left, and Cree, with Alex


International Wolf CenterWolf Conservation Center
Great places to visit, and great web sites for learning more aboiut wolves

Wolves by Brian HeinzDavid Mech: Howl in the heartlandDavid Mech: The WolfWolf Wars, by Hank FischerThe Arctic Wolf by Dave MechCarter Neimeyer - Wolfer
Rolf Peterson: Wolves of Isle RoyaleCandy Peterson: View from the Wolf's Eye
Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and ConservationDoug Smith: Decade of the Wolf, Return to Yellowstone.James Halfpenny: Yellowstone Wolves in the Wild
Where the Wild Things Wereby Christina EisenbergThe Carnivore Way, by Cristina Eisenberg

What are we reading?.... Great reading about wolves & ecosystems, for kids....and adults
Click on book for Amazon link.

Cristina Eisenberg with Steve & WendyCristina Eisenberg, Keynote at AHA Day 2014
Cristina Eisenberg was the Keynote Speaker at Adirondack Habitat Awarteness Day 2014
Wolves powerpointTrophic Cascades & the Balance of Nature
Wolves, Dogs and People
Above, We do Presentations at Schools & other Public venues

Dire wolf, by Mark Hallet

Dire wolf, by Mark Hallett, http://hallettpaleoart.com . The Dire wolf was common throughout North America, when the Eurasian gray wolf crossed the Bering Land Bridge about 250,000 years ago.  The dire wolf went extinct about 8,000 years ago, partly due to competition with the smaller, swifter gray wolf, and partly because of the pressure placed on large megafauna by human hunter-gatherers, who first crossed the  Land Bridge about 15,000 years ago.


David Mech on ADK Wolf Reintroduction
Keeping Track
David Mech on ADK Wolf Reintroduction

Steve with Cree and Zeebie, August 2011Cree howling on the wolf walkListening to Zeebie respond
Cree howling in the meadow, center, and listening to Zeebie's response

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