by Greg Walcher, E&E Legal Senior Policy Fellow
As appearing in the Daily Sentinel
A famous 1970s TV commercial warned, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” In fact, it’s worse than “not nice” — it’s dangerous. Coloradans will make a momentous decision on this year’s ballot, whether to mess with Mother Nature by introducing non-native wolves to the state, without a complete understanding of how that might affect other wildlife. It’s why wildlife is better suited to expert management than emotional ballot initiatives.
Persuasive points have been raised on both sides, but there has been almost no coverage of the potential for disease that is known to follow such non-native introductions. Canadian grey wolves were introduced to Yellowstone, so that is the artificially-introduced wolf population available for study. They are now documented to carry a host of diseases, including some commonly known — Canine Distemper Virus (CDV), Sarcoptes Scabiei, the mite that causes mange, Neospora Caninum, the bacteria that devastates dairy and beef cattle, rabies, and hepatitis. But they also carry less expected diseases. A 2016 study of the Yellowstone wolves found bubonic plague, hydatid disease, which can be fatal to humans, echinococcus granulosis, canine adenovirus, herpes virus, and coronavirus.
You read that right. Wolves are among the Earth’s primary carriers of coronavirus, the pandemic that is now sweeping the globe, having infected nearly 100,000 people and killed over 3,000 that we know about. In late January it was reported that the Chinese market at the center of the deadly outbreak sold exotic animals, including wolves, for food.