Wolves are of particular interest to us. We’ve studied them and their relations with people in Central Asia and the High Arctic. We’ve published on problems with their absence in Colorado and their presence in the Pamir.
in the Colorado Rockies
| Canis lupus irremotus
In 2014, we published a paper on elk overgrazing in Rocky Mountain National Park, a problem understood largely to be a consequence of wolf extirpation. RMNP’s ecosystem management plan addresses overgrazing by culling elk and fencing off riparian environments. This “functionalist” view effectively substitutes the role of wolves in the ecosystem with human intervention, and implicitly conflates the role or function of wolves with wolves themselves. In the paper, we argue that such substitution logic presents a conceptual problem for restoration. Seeking a resolution for this “substitution problem,” we distinguish between “reparative restoration” and “replacement restoration.” Where reparative restoration seeks to repair damage, replacement restoration seeks more aptly to replace the function of one ecological component with another. We suggest that in many cases reparative restoration is preferable to replacement restoration, and when characterized as such, may serve to better justify wolf reintroduction.
in the Tajik Wakhan
| Canis lupus chanco
In 2015, after hearing stories of wolf attacks during a visit to Tajikistan, I published a chapter, ‘If You Wander in Winter, They Will Eat You’: Local Knowledge, Wolves and Justice in Central Asia'. In the chapter, I try to reconcile these stories with Western science’s assertions that wolves are rarely dangerous to humans. Public sentiment differs in Central Asia; anecdotes of attacks abound. Whether they are folk tales or facts is difficult to determine. Local communities lack access to the scientific resources needed to authenticate their accounts. Western knowledge of wolves is dominant and authoritative. Framed in transnational and public terms, Western accounts of Western wolves become default global knowledge on wolves. Central Asian knowledge, not framed for consumption or supported by science, are comparatively invisible. The dominance of Western accounts may obscure the complexity of human–wolf conflict by overlooking distinctions in less visible regions such as Central Asia. If the wolves in Central Asia are unusually dangerous, the locals’ inability to prove as much raises serious concern for the communities’ welfare, human–wolf relations, and wolf conservation.