Wyomingites Split on Wolf Reintroduction

November 9, 2012
Gray wolf
A gray wolf in winter. (WGF Photo)

More than half of Wyoming residents believe introducing wolves into Yellowstone National Park has had negative effects, according to a new University of Wyoming poll.

Forty-nine percent agree with the reintroduction of wolves, while 47 percent disagree. When asked about the effect of wolf reintroduction, 35 percent say the effect was mostly positive and 54 percent say the effect was mostly negative.

Sponsored by the UW Department of Political Science, the poll was conducted in mid-October by the UW Survey Research Center using telephone surveys of 668 Wyoming residents selected at random. The survey has a sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points.

Jim King, professor of political science and the survey’s co-director, says the respondents’ place of residence has a significant influence on their views of wolf reintroduction. Residents of areas where livestock production is a major part of the economy are less favorable to wolves.

“People living in the western part of the state, on the eastern plains, and in the Big Horn Basin tend to view wolf reintroduction negatively,” King says. “The greatest levels of support for wolf reintroduction were found in counties of the southeastern corner of the state and in the two counties adjacent to Yellowstone National Park, Park County and Teton County.”

While opinion about wolf reintroduction is divided, there is strong consensus on hunting wolves. Four out of five Wyomingites agreed with the plan to allow the hunting of gray wolves in the state. Only 14 percent disagree. There is little variation across the state on this aspect of the wolf issue, according to King.

Nearly half of Wyomingites, 49 percent, believe the federal government should be responsible for paying for financial losses resulting from wolf attacks on livestock. Twenty-seven percent believe conservation groups should pay these costs, and 14 percent believe ranchers should.

Wyomingites who consider wolf introduction to have had negative effects are more likely to believe the federal government and conservation groups should pay for livestock losses, while those who consider wolf introduction to have had positive effects are more likely to believe ranchers should bear some of this burden.

The UW Political Science Department has conducted biennial surveys of Wyoming residents since 1972. The questions focus on attitudes toward government, contemporary policy issues, elected officials and candidates for office.

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