Dear EarthTalk: What is happening with various programs initiated over the years in the U.S. to return to the wild certain animal species that had been endangered or threatened? And do environmentalists tend to be for or against such efforts? -- Susan Adams, Owl’s Head, ME
From the standpoint of species and ecosystem health, limited attempts at predator reintroduction in the United States have for the most part proven very successful. The gray wolf, extirpated by hunters in the Yellowstone region some 90 years ago, is now thriving there in the wake of a controversial reintroduction program initiated in 1995, when the National Park Service released 31 gray wolves into the park’s expansive backcountry. Today as many as 170 gray wolves roam the park and environs, while the elk population—which was denuding many iconic park landscapes in the absence of its chief predator—has fallen by half, in what many environmentalists see as a win-win scenario.