By Rick LoBello
Over 5000 people in recent months have signed letters and petitions asking Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Governor of Texas to support returning the wolf to the ecosystem of our great state. I often tell people that returning the wolf to Texas will be a monumental task because of the state’s politics more than anything, but that I believe that it is an achievable and laudable goal. After all here in Texas we helped to put a man on the moon at Mission Control in Houston. You would think it would be possible to restore this important part of our natural heritage back into our ecosystem where it could once again become an important part of the balance of life.
It was back in 1978 when I was a park ranger in Big Bend National Park that I was given the opportunity to see one of the last wild Mexican wolves known to science before the species went extinct in the wild. It it was a day I shall never forget. I was stationed at Panther Junction Park Headquarters where it was a two hundred mile round trip to get groceries in Alpine. One day my friend Roy McBride invited me to his ranch in Alpine to see a wolf that he had recently captured in Mexico as part of an emergency US-Mexico effort to save the species from extinction. As I looked at the recently captured wolf pacing back-and-forth inside a large fenced enclosure a great sadness came over me. Just days before this wonderful animal was living wild and free in the mountains of northern Mexico. Its ancestors had been an important part of the web of life for thousands of years. I realized that I was looking at a species that not long ago was a part of the ecosystem in Big Bend National Park. How could I knowing this reality do nothing? I had to do something.
In 1988, ten years after I saw the captured Mexican wolf in Alpine, National Park Service Director William Penn Mott Jr., despite congressional opposition, advocated for the return of the wolf to our national parks. He inspired me to write about the wolf in the Big Bend National Park visitor guide newspaper called El Paisano. Several years later I helped to organize the Mexican Wolf Coalition of Texas.
As a result of Mott’s leadership the wolf was eventually returned to Yellowstone National Park. Today we now know just how important wolves are to the biodiversity and health of the Yellowstone ecosystem. How important is the wolf to the ecosystem in Texas? We will never know until we give it a chance to return.
Like the name of this website we have only one lifetime to make any kind of difference in helping to take care of our earth. When our ancestors killed off the wolf over most of its natural range during the 1800s it was not the best choice for the future of our environment. Wolves have been successfully returned to the wild in places like Yellowstone National Park and the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico. Isn’t it time that we gave the wolf a chance to re-inhabit its former homeland in Texas? Past Chief Scientist of the National Park Service Roland Wauer once told me “I believe that reintroduction of Mexican wolves into the Big Bend country is both feasible and proper, and every effort should go into the program.” The future of this species and the health of our ecosystem in Texas is in our hands. Join the Texas wolf pack today and help bring back this amazing animal to the Texas Wilderness. For more information contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.