Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf?

Tracy Smith is a CBS News correspondent based in New York.
The first time I went to Yellowstone was in the mid-90's, for a story on how the federal government was bringing wolves back to the park. I found out then that you don't have to be Little Red Riding Hood to have a strong opinion about wolves. Maybe it's because the wolf is the classic fairy tale villain. He didn't just dress up like grandmama, he also threatened to do unsolicited gut renovations to the homes of the three little pigs. A lot of the ranchers around Yellowstone, who've lost their livestock to wolves, see them that way: as sneaky, vicious killers.

But despite that rep, the wolf is also one of the most common animals honored in art. At the park, I met people who said they were actually spiritually moved by seeing wolves.

I saw wolves when I visited this last time, for a story on how they're poised to come off the endangered species list. With a high-powered scope (all the better to see you with, my dear), I watched a pack of them stalk some bison. I have to admit my elation came more from wanting to get shots of them for our story than from any sort of spiritual awakening.

They did draw a crowd, though. And perhaps more importantly, biologists say that, as predators, wolves have straightened out the park's ecology. So, as even the ranchers told me, wolves are likely here to stay. Now that they're losing federal protections, the trick for states is figuring out how to keep the wolf population strong...but away from the ranchers' door.

Let's hope there can still be a fairy tale ending.