The gray wolf wandering the mountains of California new probably would be amused at the fuss he is causing. He probably sees himself as a lonely bachelor, looking for love and something to eat. He probably doesn’t see himself as the spear point of a great wolf rush to come.
Those who are most concerned with his return — primarily people who make their livings outdoors, such as ranchers — may be overreacting.
But they have a reason to be concerned if the future finds them facing more than one lone wolf. They already have to deal with wild predators. They don’t need any more.
Few of us have had much to do with wolves. Those who are celebrating the return of the wolf, claiming he somehow will make life better in the wilderness, probably have never seen a wolf outside a zoo. In the zoo, they look like big, cuddly dogs, but they are far from that.
Canis lupus is the apex predator wherever it runs wild. According to Wikipedia, it once was the world’s most widely-distributed carnivore, and still is relatively widespread. Wolves hunt in packs, and will eat just about anything they can kill, including humans, domestic livestock and other wild animals, such as deer, elk and antelope.
Fear of the wolf is in the DNA of people who make their livings outdoors in the places where wolves run wild. Humans were regularly killed by wolves in Europe and other areas until firearms became available.
Wolf attacks on humans have been rare in the western U.S., where humans regularly go armed when they venture into the outdoors, but attacks on livestock weren’t rare at all until the wolf was driven out of California in the 1920s.
Wolves aren’t in any danger of extinction, nor do they need protection. We might be the ones who will need that.