Saturday, June 4, 2011

I noticed this sharply critical blog post about a wolf article in Highlights magazine and since I also had an article about wolves published in Highlights several years ago, I felt a duty to respond to it. Either something went wrong when I tried to post or the poster chose not to publish my comment (maybe it was too long!). Therefore, I feel the need to get that information out another way, right here.

The blogger questioned the scientific accuracy of the article by asking for the names of the researchers. Although I can not speak for that writer and their research, I can write about the five articles that I've had accepted for publication by that magazine. They were all based on research papers and consultation with an expert. Not only that, all the editors at Highlights review every article so there is absolutely no way they would publish any nonfiction without it being based on fact. No way. No how. Not happening.

Anyhow, I explained that in my 800 word article the bibliography was two pages and I consulted four research papers, one from a study in Montana and three from a study in Banff National Park. Additionally, the finished article was reviewed by the expert.

In my article, wolves were scared out of the park by park rangers who used to shoot them. They returned to the Eastern and Western portions of the park, but not the central region. For fifteen years, scientists studied the ecosystem in all three areas. They counted elk by helicopter, they examined aspen and willow trees, they monitored songbirds and beavers. They also followed wolves on snowshoes and on cross-country skis to learn where they went and what they ate. In the central area of the park, where there were no wolves, elk populations had grown out of control. They wandered in the roads, gardens, and on soccer fields. They chewed through aspen and willow, killing some trees. Songbirds nest in the trees so there were less songbirds. Beavers used the willows to make their lodges so there were less beavers. The bottom line was that without wolves, the ecosystem was out of balance.

I then commented that he was lucky to have received such a long letter from a busy well-respected editor. Many writers yearn for such feedback.

If the blogger was truly interested in reading the research paper(s), he/she could easily type in some keywords on Google Scholar. Words like "wolf" or "wolves", location, and researcher last name should be enough to find the paper. I haven't read the article, but the controversy has certainly captivated me to want to.

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