Question Sheet: The Wolf and the Cow


Before reading:

  1. What wild animal is a problem where you live? How do people try to control the animal? 
  2. Provide three facts about wolves.

During reading:

  1. When he was growing up, how did Will Holder feel about wolves and other predators? What made him question his assumptions about these animals? 
  2. Why are conflicts between people and predators becoming more common? 
  3. What did researchers at the University of Stirling in Scotland find out about the effects of predators on livestock? 
  4. Explain what biodiversity is and why it’s important. 
  5. How can a cattle rancher protect his livestock without shooting predators? 
  6. What problems would remain for a rancher or farmer even if there were no predators?

After reading:

  1. Compare people’s attitudes toward wolves with their attitudes to deer. Why do predators tend to have a “bad image?” 
  2. What predators live in your area? Are any of them endangered? 
  3. Design a cattle ranch that you think would be safe from wolves. What would its most important protective features be? 
  4. Does knowing how many cattle ranchers often treat wolves influence whether you would want to eat beef? Why or why not? 
  5. Emily Sohn describes the viewpoint of scientists who focus on biodiversity as “less personal” than that of cattle ranchers who are worried about their financial situation. Which of these two positions makes more sense to you? 
  6. Is killing wolves wrong? Under what circumstances do you think it would be okay to kill a wolf? 
  7. If you felt strongly about the need to protect wolves, how would you try to do this?


Where is Yellowstone National Park? When did wolves disappear from the park? When were wolves reintroduced to Yellowstone? Where did the wolves brought to Yellowstone come from? How many wolves are there now in the park? For information about wolf restoration in Yellowstone, see Park Service).


  1. Write a letter to a rancher explaining why he should not kill wolves. Suggest alternative means that the rancher could use to protect his livestock. 
  2. Suppose a panel of ranchers were to debate a group of scientists interested in biodiversity on whether to protect wolves. Give four arguments that each side could use to support their position.


A herdsman in North Africa must cross a river with a jackal (a predator), a goat (potential prey), and fig leaves (a potential snack for the goat). The herdsman has a boat that can hold him and two other items at one time. Neither the jackal and the goat nor the goat and the fig leaves can be left alone together on either shore. How can the man get the jackal, the goat, and the fig leaves safely across the river?