The Hole in the System: A Great Plains National Park [Conference Proceedings]


This publication includes Durward L. Allen's proposal for a Great Plains National Park which was presented in 1976 at the First Conference on Scientific Research in the National Parks in New Orleans, LA.

The proposed park would be located near the tri-state area of Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming and would consist of one million fenced-in acres (26 by 60 miles, about half the size of Yellowstone) which would be open to the public. The park would be able to support roughly 8,000 buffalo and 200 wolves in addition to other wildlife.

The proposed location for the park would probably fall in the region of overlap between two historic wolf subspecies - Canis lupus nubilus (Great Plains wolf) and Canis lupus irremotus (northern Rocky Mountain wolf). Finding the right wolf for the park will be difficult because C. l. nubilus is extinct and there are only a few scattered wild individuals of C. l. irremotus which could potentially be used. Alternatively, Jack and Marjorie Lynch of Gardiner, WA own a captive pack of wolves which are probably irremotus or irremotus x nubilus hybrids which were saved and propagated by Dr. E. H. McCleery of Kane, PA who kept the bloodlines distinct. Studies (aided by the Fish and Wildlife Service's endangered species staff) are being done to confirm the origin of Lynch's wolves, and preliminary inspection indicates that the animals will be an important backup option in case wild irremotus wolves are unavailable. If Lynch's wolves can be confirmed to be even partially irremotus, it should be a matter of public concern to preserve them. The excellent condition of Lynch's wolves and their quarters is reported.

The portion of the proposal which discusses the wolves is quoted below.







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The full text of this item is accessible via the Internet Archive.

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Finding a proper wolf for a grasslands park will be a major biological problem. Depending on location, the area probably would be at or near the presently recognized borderline (region of intergradation) between the extinct great plains wolf, Canis lupus nubilis, and the northern Rocky Mountain wolf, Canis l. irremotus (vide Goldman 1937, Hall and Kelson 1959). Both preyed on the buffalo, and the western form irremotus evidently still hangs on as a scattered remnant in the Wyoming-Montana-Idaho region, where Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks are potential sanctuaries. Whether these wolves can be restored naturally to a viable population is only a tenuous possibility at present, but conceivably public attitudes are changing enough to make this possible. If it happened, a source of wild stock would be available.

On the other hand, some captive wolves that probably are irremotus or even irremotus x nubilis have been held and propagated by Jack and Marjorie Lynch at Gardiner, Washington -- the only such animals in existence to my knowledge. Jack Lynch and others are studying the history of these animals, whose progenitors were captured in the wild by Biological Survey trappers in the 'teens and twenties through the urgent requests of the late Dr. E. H. McCleery, of Kane, Pennsylvania. McCleery bred his wolves and is said to have kept the blood lines distinct.

When the current studies are complete, Lynch will be more certain of what he has. Preliminary inspection of some original catch records indicates that the animals came from Montana. This would make their descendants priority number one for introduction to a great plains park, if wild irremotus are unavailable, This group of captive wolves is also a potential back-up in case the precariously situated wild wolves of the Yellowstone-Glacier region disappear.

The wolves at Gardiner, Washington are in excellent condition, kept in large pens and in socially compatible groups. Jack Lynch's study of their origin is being aided by the endangered species staff of the Fish and Wildlife Service. If these animals can be confirmed as irremotus, in whole or in part, their preservation is a matter of public concern. It should no longer depend on the practically unfunded E. H. McCleery Lobo Wolf Foundation and the devotion of a few people. The Lynch effort is urgently in need of assistance .