Wolves Of Yellowstone Spur Love And Hate

On any given morning in Yellowstone National Park, you can find packs of tourists watching for packs of wolves, CBS News correspondent Tracy Smith reports.

What do they feel when looking at these wolves?

"My spirit just feels such a resonance with what I'm seeing," said wolf watcher Nancy Waring.

Wolf watchers bring more than high-powered scopes: They bring money to area businesses — about $35 million each year.

Seventy years ago, aggressive hunting and trapping had all but wiped out the wolves in Yellowstone. But the federal government decided that as predators, wolves were a key link in the park's food chain.

So starting in 1995, they brought the wolves back to Yellowstone. They released 41 in the park, housed in pens. Officials were hoping the wolves would have pups and eventually they would end up with about 100.

Now, a decade later, the pens are overgrown and there are 300 wolves in the Yellowstone area ... more than 1,300 in the three surrounding states.

There are so many wolves now, Washington is considering taking wolves in the Yellowstone area off the endangered species list, which means they'd be fair game for hunters.

But not all the area residents see the beauty of these creatures.

Rancher James Felton said he lost upwards of $40,000 last month when a wolf attacked one of his calves on his land near Yellowstone.

"I shouldn't have wolves on my ranch, chewing on my livestock. I didn't want 'em here in the first place. No other rancher did! Why are we taking the brunt?" he asked.

Smith also discussed creative solutions to the wolf problem -- ways that might control the population without killing the wolves. To see that report from Smith, .

For more information on Range Riders, mentioned in Smith's report above, click here.

Since 1995, wolves have killed more than 1,000 sheep and cattle in the Yellowstone area. Under current law, ranchers can shoot a wolf if they can prove their livestock was attacked. So far, more than 260 wolves have been killed, including one by Felton.

When asked, in his opinion, how many wolves should be in his area, Felton replied, "Zero."

Conservationists warn that taking wolves off the endangered list will once again turn predators into prey.

"They could very well end up on the endangered species list again, and we don't want to see that happen," Janelle Holden of Keystone Conservation said.

Early next year, the government will decide whether that's a real threat — or just crying wolf.