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Friday, January 23, 1998 Published at 13:22 GMT


Wolves not welcome in Wyoming
image: [ One of the cubs brought from Canada during the re-population programme ]
One of the cubs brought from Canada during the re-population programme

What has been described as the most spectacular example of wildlife conservation in the history of the United States has been ruled unlawful by a judge.

A federal court has decided that conservationists broke the law when they successfully re-introduced wolves to the Yellowstone Park in the American Rockies.

The project, which began three years ago, was designed to control the numbers of other species in the park. The wolves not only survived; they thrived and began killing cattle on nearby ranches.

[ image: Howls echo around Yellowstone National Park]
Howls echo around Yellowstone National Park
Ranchers, who say that the wolves have been leaving the park's unfenced boundaries and killing their livestock, went to court.

A federal judge has now ruled that the whole re-population operation was illegal. The case is to go to appeal.

The man behind the project, Ed Bangs, from the US Bureau of Fish and Wildlife, said it would be a shame if the wolves had to go.

He said: "Biologically it's been an outstanding success. There have been very few problems and 20,000 people get to see wolves in Yellowstone Park, so biologically the programme is more successful than we ever hoped for."

Ranchers, however, want the wolves to go. One rancher said: "I never thought it was a good idea - they're killers no matter what."

The ranchers want the state's Federal Wildlife Wardens to prevent the wolves from leaving Yellowstone.

Rancher John Morse said: "My own sense is that the middle ground ought to be that the park service, which has been particularly arrogant, should figure out a way how to keep the wolves in the park."

The ranchers' hostility and recent court ruling against the wolves relocation has put pressure on Mr Bangs, who is wildlife co-ordinator.

"There's no doubt about it, the public strongly supports wolf recovery. It's been so successful. The average person just shakes their head in disbelief that we could dismantle a programme that has done so well."

The wolves will stay where they are pending the appeal. However, Mr Bangs said if they had to relocate the wolves, the task would be difficult.

He said: "The Canadians made it very clear it was a one-way trip for the wolves. They gave us 66 and they don't expect them to come back.

"If we have to capture and relocate the wolves we'll be looking at some place to put them in the States, which will take time to think about."

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