What draws tourists to Yellowstone? A new scientific visitor survey shows the number one draw is wildlife – specifically wolves and grizzly bears! Beyond their value as a critical keystone species, by drawing an abundance of tourists to the park wolves benefit the greater Yellowstone economy too!
National Parks Service (NPS) estimates that wolf watchers bring $35M tourism dollars to the greater Yellowstone area annually. Moreover, a 2013 NPS report shows that 3,188,030 visitors to Yellowstone National Park that year spent almost $382 million in the surrounding communities. That spending supported 5,300 jobs in the area.
Despite the popularity of wolves, many of the park’s neighboring communities are avidly anti-wolf and sometimes the more popular the wolf, the bigger target they become. Last month, the 12-year-old matriarch of Yellowstone’s Canyon Pack, was shot by poachers and left to die.
Poachers are not the only threats Yellowstone wolves face. Although hunting is not permitted within the park, wolf trophy hunts are authorized by every state bordering Yellowstone.
Communities surrounding Yellowstone in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho should give greater consideration the economics of wildlife watching. Only then would they would understand that wolves are more valuable alive than dead, and their current policies are indeed killing the “golden goose.”