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Wild Wolves

Classroom Activity

To analyze some of the social and political aspects of wolf relocation.

Materials for each team
  • copy of the student handouts
    Relocation Challenge (PDF or HTML)
    Wolf Facts (PDF or HTML)
  • penny
  1. Re-introducing wolves into an area is a complicated issue. Analyze some of the social and political aspects of wolf relocation in this activity.

  2. Divide the class into small teams, and distribute the "Relocation Challenge" and "Wolf Facts" student handouts, and a penny to each team.

  3. In Part I, have students select and defend their choice for relocating a pack of wolves to a fictitious site.

  4. In Part II, have students flip a coin to see what happens next to the wolf pack and make a recommendation for solving the issues that arise. Students should support their choices and consider how different parties who might be impacted by the decision—government officials, environmentalists, residents, and ranchers—would react. They should also consider what additional information they would need to make the most complete decision and where they could obtain it.

Activity Answer

Relocation Challenge
Part I

Students should consider the possibilities for feeding as well as for establishing a natural territory in each site. Each location has benefits and drawbacks. Site 1 offers good potential for prey and a somewhat isolated territory. The possibility of human contact, however, might cause the wolves to move further away from the site, possibly closer to populated areas. Site 2 offers isolation, but might not provide enough food, which would cause them to travel in search of prey. Site 3 offers a plentiful food source, but regular visits by people and the possibility of livestock kills on the nearby grazing land could pose problems.

Part II
Scenario A: The description of the calf carcass does not indicate that it was definitely killed by a wolf, although Wolf 3's presence in the area makes him a good suspect. Since he has already attacked livestock, officials might decide to relocate him to a more remote area. He could also be taken back to the holding pen for a period of time to help him lose his instinct to wander. Although it is not known whether Wolf 3 actually killed the calf, officials might assume he did and shoot him based on the Endangered Species Act two-strike policy. Alternately, it might be argued that the animal should be left alone unless it is proven that he is killing livestock. However, some ranchers might want the wolf removed from the area. Other people, including wolf supporters, might recommend moving him in an attempt to keep the wolf population amicably separated from people.

Scenario B: Wolf 6 may not be able to feed her pups without a mate. Before taking any action, officials should probably observe the wolf family to see how they are faring. Since the wolf relocation program intends for wolves to re-populate the area as naturally as possible, there is a strong case to be made for leaving the wolves alone, with the understanding that some animals may die in the process of repopulating the park. This may be a difficult option for students to consider, but they should talk through the reasons for not taking steps to artificially control the population. An intermediate step is for wildlife officials to leave meat within easy reach of the female so that she can keep her pups fed without having to spend too much time hunting. In this way, the wolves can remain in the wild, but be given a higher chance of survival. The greatest intervention would be to capture the entire family and bring them back to the pens until the pups are able to survive on their own. The reasoning for this course of action is that since the entire re-population program is experimental, researchers might have to take extraordinary steps to ensure its success at the beginning.

Teacher's Guide
Wild Wolves

Video is not required for this activity