Interview with Norman Bishop

Norm Bishop far right (pointing)

What is your background regarding wolves?
When I was three, and my sisters were six and four, my mother read us The Three Little Pigs.  We lived a block south of the Denver zoo, and could hear lions roaring and peacocks crowing.  We could also hear steam trains chuffing at the Union Station a couple of miles away.  I slept alone in the basement, and thought the chuffing was wolves blowing houses down.  A baby sitter told me that if I didn’t behave, the wolf would get me.  My mother relieved my fear of that fate by taking me down into the basement and showing me as she threw the Three Little Pigs book into the coal-burning furnace, and telling me that the wolf was gone.

The topic of wolves didn’t arise again until I was taking graduate courses in Forest Recreation and Wildlife Management at CSU, when my major professor introduced my class to Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac, and we read Leopold’s essay, “Thinking Like a Mountain,” in which he tells about killing a wolf, and through his career, recognizing that predators were essential to the health of ecosystems.

After working as a national park ranger at Rocky Mountain, Death Valley, Yosemite, Mount Rainier, and the Southeast Regional Office, I was attending a professional meeting in Minneapolis, where Barry Holstun Lopez was signing his 1978 Of Wolves and Men.  I bought it. 

When you learned wolves were going to be reintroduced to Yellowstone, what was your reaction?
Two years later, I was transferred from Atlanta to Yellowstone, as resource management specialist.  Within the first several months I was there, the 1980 Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Plan arrived in the park.  I was ecstatic.  One morning I ran into superintendent John Townsley in the mail room, and something keyed both of us to think about the wolf plan.  I started to say something about it, but he held up a finger and said, “We will not mention wolves until we have the grizzly bear on a sound footing in Yellowstone.”  He knew each of the members of Congress from the three states surrounding the park, and realized that even mentioning another endangered species to them could destroy any chance of conserving either one. 

What did you think would happen with reintroduction vs. what did happen?
None of us thought wolves would be as visible as they turned out to be.  Few people were seeing wolves in Denali or on Isle Royale.  Ten years after the wolves arrived, an estimated 300,000 visitors were viewing wolves annually, and spending $35.5 million in local communities.  Now the  annual benefit to surrounding counties from wolf watching is $65.5 million.

Through a series  on inter-park transfers, by 1985 I was serving as resources interpreter in the newly established Yellowstone Center for Resources.  The second Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Plan was completed that year, and finally approved in 1987.  In ensuing months, throughout the region, I gave 400 talks on wolves and their recovery, and sent thousands of custom packages of wolf information to universities and high school students who requested information about wolf restoration.  I also helped produce two reports to Congress: Wolves for Yellowstone?, served the wolf Management Committee of 1991, and worked with the USFWS on the preparation of the 1994 EIS, The Reintroduction of Gray Wolves to Yellowstone National Park and Central Idaho. 

When the EIS was signed in 1994, and wolves were finally transported to Yellowstone in January, 1995, I helped carry them to acclimation pens, and helped feed them in the pens.  In 1997, I retired, but from 1999 to 2005, taught field courses on wolves for the Yellowstone Institute.      

What is the most surprising thing you have learned about wolf behavior?
Three books by Rick McIntyre, who has been observing the wolves almost daily for 25 years: The Rise of Wolf 8, The Reign of Wolf 21, and The Redemption of Wolf 302, reveal the complexity of wolf family life.  Each wolf has a unique personality, and is guided by learning from his or her parents and the wolf’s own experience.

Why do you think wolves continue to be so polarizing in our society?
Hatred appears to me to be a very compelling and attractive emotion. Fear is another gripping sensation, and we humans seem to groove on it.  Look at all the horror movies.  We love to scare each other.  The guy at the bar who can tell the scariest story is the center of attention.  Fear and hatred justify inordinate acts of cruelty toward wolves and other predators.  

Barry Lopez (1978, P. 196) writes toward  the end of a chapter in An American Pogrom with: “It seems to me that somewhere in our history we should have attempted to answer to ourselves for all this.  As I have tried to make clear,  the motives for wiping out wolves (as opposed to controlling them) proceeded from misunderstanding, from illusions as to what constituted sport, from strident attachment to private property, from ignorance and irrational hatred.  But the scope, the casual irresponsibility, and the cruelty of wolf killing is something else.  I don’t think it comes from some base, atavistic urge, though that may be part of it,.I think it is that we simply do not understand our place in the universe and have not the courage to admit it.”

What is one thing you think people should know about wolves?
That they are the least dangerous of all North American wild animals.  We have only two reports of human fatalities caused by wild wolves in the last 90 years. Beyond that, that they are essential to the health of the very animals we fear they will eliminate. 

Do you think grizzly bears should be reintroduced to their original habitats as well?
As an old acquaintance used to say, “That’s a whole ‘nuther smoke, friends.”  Wolves need only two things: adequate vulnerable prey, and human tolerance.  Grizzly bears present a whole different panoply of issues.

Do you think wolf reintroduction in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho has been managed well? What do you think the pitfalls and successes have been?
Wolves in the three states have been at the mercy of a number of different administrations, the latest of which in Idaho and Montana have been disastrous.  At a time when chronic wasting disease is advancing through the deer, elk, and moose in all three states, not one of them has given serious thought of allowing wolves to perform their essential role of sanitarian, and instead have resurrected old hatreds and crane killing methods like those documented by Lopez and others.  I find it very disheartening, in view of the current ongoing Sixth Extinction.

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Gray Wolves: A Living Legacy

By: Rose Pray

Whenever my three year old grand daughter, Emily, sees me in a wolf T shirt, she makes a wolf
howl. Emily has never seen a wolf, with the exception of the plush wolf that I gave her on her first

Once wolves numbered in the hundreds of thousands in the U.S., ranging from Canada to
Mexico, West Coast to East Coast. They were in such great numbers that pioneers were never far from a wolf, similar in numbers to today’s backyard birds.

Those early wolves were an apex species who kept their environment in check, making sure
that buffalo and other native species did not outstrip their food sources. In the blink of an eye, when settlers saw the wolf as a problem, they were trapped, shot and poisoned. By the early 1940s, the U.S. wolf population was reduced to less than 500.

Twenty five years ago, wildlife biologists and environmentalists realized the crucial role that
apex species play in wildlife and wilderness biodiversity, and had the ambition to restore wolves
to the Northern Rockies. The wolves, living up to their role, returned wasteland to thriving bio-
communities that gave life again to native flora and fauna, from fish to song birds to grazing big

With the delisting of gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act, the shoot-on-sight policy
across most of Wyoming, and the recent liberalization of wolf hunting and trapping policies in
Montana and Idaho, the wolves of the Northern Rockies are again at the mercy of hunters and
trappers, including some famous Yellowstone wolves who happened to wander outside of the
park boundaries. With each passing day, the numbers of wolves killed in Idaho, Montana, and
Wyoming continue to climb, disrupting wolf families and packs, decimating the fragile

In Colorado, the situation is different. Coloradans across the State voted last November to
restore gray wolves to western Colorado. Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has been tasked
with developing a wolf management plan and putting wolf paws on the ground by 2023.
Restoring wolves to Colorado will provide a crucial piece of the wildlife corridor that will allow
wolves to once again roam from Canada to Mexico.

In order to have a robust, sustainable and ecologically effective wolf population, we must
advocate for more stringent hunting and trapping regulations in the Northern Rockies. We must
hold CPW to the task of restoring wolves to Western Colorado. Our wonderful state can serve
as an example for wolf and human coexistence and as a sanctuary

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When you think of wolf reintroduction what emotion do you feel?

Do you remember the first time you heard about wolves? (Fairytale, newspaper, family)
I don’t recall

Do you want to see wolves reintroduced in Colorado?

What do you want people to know about wolves?
Coexisting with wolves is a straightforward affair that requires only a modicum of accommodation.

What do you want to know about wolves?
How they repopulate Colorado after 30 to 60 wolves have been reintroduced.

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When you think of wolf reintroduction what emotion do you feel?

Do you remember the first time you heard about wolves? (Fairytale, newspaper, family)
As a kid, not sure how or when, but they come up in so many stories and it’s only of those first animals you learn while you’re young.

Do you want to see wolves reintroduced in Colorado?

What do you want people to know about wolves?
I think the most important thing is to understand how wolves fit into our ecosystems. It may be worth people understanding the historical context that wolves populations were decimated by people intentionally- I’m not sure people understand just how prolific they used to be

What do you want to know about wolves?
I am interested in how these reintroduction efforts are being funded and if it has been accounted for that federal and state budgets are already stretched thin with species preceding the wolf reintroduction.

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When you think of wolf reintroduction what emotion do you feel?
Pride & Hope

Do you remember the first time you heard about wolves? (Fairytale, newspaper, family)?
I can’t say I know the first time, but I would assume it was Little Red Riding Hood or the Big Bad Wolf blowing down pig houses.

Do you want to see wolves reintroduced in Colorado?

What do you want people to know about wolves?
Reality, on a number of issues. 
* Wolves present virtually no danger to humans

* Elk and deer populations in MT, ID, and WY have INCREASED since wolf restoration
Some ranchers will suffer losses, which can be very hard on the individual rancher, but wolf depredation on livestock as a whole will not cause the destruction of ranching
And on….

What do you want to know about wolves?
I want to see how they occupy Colorado and how they become a part of our wildlife community, just like mountain lions and bears.

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First Gray Wolf Pups Born in Colorado Since the 1940’s

DENVER (AP) — Colorado has its first litter of gray wolf pups since the 1940s, state wildlife officials said Wednesday.

A state biologist and district wildlife manager each spotted the litter of at least three wolf pups over the weekend with their parents, two adult wolves known to live in the state, Gov. Jared Polis announced in a news release. Most wolf litters have four to six pups, so there could be more. Read More…

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The Wolf That Discovered California from the Smithsonian Magazine

At a steady trot, wolves can go 20 miles without breaking stride and cover 50 miles in a day. Their long thin legs move with the inevitability of bicycle wheels, with the rear foot landing in the exact spot just vacated by the front foot and the rest of the wolf flowing along. They travel with a look of intense purpose—ears pricked up, eyes keen, nostrils sifting the air for information—yet their movement over the land appears effortless. Read more…

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Rio Blanco County Reaffirms Opposition to wolf reintroduction – from The Fence Post

On Tuesday March 16, 2021, the Rio Blanco County Board of County Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution to reaffirm the county’s opposition to wolf reintroduction to become a Wolf Reintroduction Sanctuary County.

On Tuesday March 16, 2021, the Rio Blanco County Board of County Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution to reaffirm the county’s opposition to wolf reintroduction to become a Wolf Reintroduction Sanctuary County. Rio Blanco County is the first in the state to adopt a Wolf Reintroduction Sanctuary Resolution since Proposition 114 passed on November 3, 2020.

Through the resolution, the commissioners stated the county would allow for the natural migration and repopulation of Gray Wolves, but would not allow for artificially introduced wolves. Further stating that “designated lands” for artificial reintroduction must not include Rio Blanco County or any other county in the state that adopts the Sanctuary County Resolution.

Proposition 114 narrowly passed in the statewide election; however, of the 64 counties in the state only 13 received an affirmative vote. There were only five counties on the western slope which voters approved the proposition. Under the Rio Blanco County Resolution, these would be considered to be designated lands by the terms defined by the ballot measure. Those counties include Pitkin, Summit, San Miguel, San Juan and La Plata County. Read more…

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Colorado begins planning to reintroduce gray wolves from The Steamboat Pilot & Today

First round of public meetings expected February through May as Gov. Polis challenges state to beat a voter imposed deadline.

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Voter approval of Colorado wolf reintroduction means “paws on the ground” by late 2023 – from The Denver Post

Proposition 114 directs CPW to develop a plan and reintroduce an undetermined number of gray wolves, enough to ensure wolf survival, by the end of 2023 on former habitat in the state west of the Continental Divide. Proponents emphasized this means “paws on the ground” within three years.

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