MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – November is two weeks away, and with the new month comes the start of Wisconsin’s wolf hunt. But this hunt comes as a concern to conservationists and indigenous people after hunters exceeded the established wolf hunting quota last year.
In February, Wisconsin hosted its first legal wolf hunt in decades after gray wolves were removed from the endangered species list. But in the first several hours of the hunt, hunters killed nearly 100 more wolves than they were allotted. Now, the Ojibwe and conservations are suing the state to stop this year’s hunt all together.
Both groups allege the state Department of Natural Resources does not know the exact population of gray wolves, making it impossible to set a kill quota.
“There’s too much uncertainty in the wolf population count to be able to proceed,” said Michelle Lute, a National Carnivore Conservation Manager for Project Coyote — one of the conservation groups involved in the lawsuit.
The Natural Resources Board originally approved a quota of 300 wolves for the November hunt, but the DNR has the final say. On Oct. 5, the DNR approved a quota of 130 wolves for the hunt. But given last year’s runaway killings, the tribes and conservationists want to stop thsi year’s hunt all together.
“We have filed a motion for preliminary injunction,” explained Gussie Lord, a managing attorney for Earthjustice — who is representing the six Ojibwe tribes in Wisconsin. “We are asking the federal court to stop the federal wolf hunt.”
Not only is the hunt a violation of the tribes’ off-reservation treaty rights, Lord says the Ojibwe also have a cultural and spiritual interest in protecting the state’s wolf population.
“The Ojibwe believe that what happens to the gray wolf happens to the Ojibwe,” Lord said. “What happens to the wolf happens to humanity. And so it’s important for the wolf to be healthy and regain its place in the landscape in Wisconsin.”
NBC15 reached out the DNR twice for an interview, but they declined to comment on the lawsuits.
According to the Associated Press, the DNR policy board voted not to hire outside attorneys during a closed session meeting.
BOISE, IDAHO—The Biden administration has defended the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services’ actions in Idaho after the agency preemptively killed eight wolf pups from Idaho’s Timberline pack in response to complaints from a rancher grazing livestock on public lands.
“Killing these wolf pups was inhumane, unscientific, and indefensible,” said Joe Bushyhead with WildEarth Guardians. “Wolves face enough persecution in Idaho already at the hands of the state. The Biden administration should not be using federal resources to make a bad situation even worse.”
“We are shocked that the Biden administration condones the slaughter of weeks-old wolf pups on public lands at the behest of private livestock interests,” said Talasi Brooks of Western Watersheds Project. “Wolves–especially wolf pups–pose no significant threat to livestock.”
Conservation groups learned that Wildlife Services started pursuing the pack in May when an agent killed the first three pups at the densite. The agency killed five more pups over the next two months. Conservation groups urged USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to stop Wildlife Services from slaughtering weeks-old wolves on public lands. In yesterday’s letter, Secretary Vilsack rejected the request, responding that killing wolf pups is a “humane management option.”
“The mission of Wildlife Services ‘to improve the coexistence of people and wildlife’, not killing defenseless puppies in their den, especially when there are so many effective nonlethal alternatives,” said Suzanne Asha Stone, director of the International Wildlife Coexistence Network based in Idaho. “We are deeply disappointed in this administration’s response.”
High school students at Timberline High School in Boise were devastated when they learned that Wildlife Services killed the Timberline pack’s pups. The school adopted the pack as its mascot when the school was founded in 1998.
“It’s disheartening to see the USDA justifying killing our pack’s innocent pups as ‘humane management.’ The data from Idaho’s Wood River Wolf Project study should’ve been enough to persuade politicians of the efficacy of nonlethal methods, yet the USDA and Biden administration continue to practice inaction”, said Michel Liao, Timberline High School student. “It’s this very passivity that’s allowing people to eradicate all the pups from Timberline High School’s wolf pack this year on our public lands. It must stop.”
“We tell our students that science is key in wildlife management, yet scientific evidence tells us that killing or disturbing stable wolf packs leads to more livestock conflicts, not less and it undermines our native ecosystems,” said Dick Jordan, Timberline High School science advisor. “We expect more from the Biden administration and our Department of Agriculture. Killing wolf pups is not humane by any sense of the word. And doing so while Idaho is working to eradicate its wolf population is supporting the state’s new war on wolves.”
Yet, the Secretary’s letter yesterday confirms that Wildlife Services will continue these unscientific and inhumane activities.
“All wolf killing is predicated on a lie that wolves cause significant livestock deaths,” said Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense. “They don’t. Wolves cause only a fraction of a percent of livestock deaths. And here Secretary Vilsack is compounding the travesty of this misnamed USDA program called ‘Wildlife Services’ by defending the killing of even pups. It is painfully obvious that Wildlife Services has fully embraced the cruel and self-serving demands of ranchers in Idaho. Americans should be outraged.”
“It’s disturbing to see state and federal officials openly supporting the killing of wolf pups. There is no scientific rationale for such barbaric measures,” said Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “With its new laws clearly intended to decimate our wolf population, it seems that with Idaho’s war against wolves, there are no limits to the state’s cruelty.”
“The Biden’s Administration’s response to our groups’ concerns was alarming, and the action that the administration stands behind is hideous,” said Katie Bilodeau with Friends of the Clearwater. “There are non-lethal wolf-predation deterrents that scientific testing has shown to be effective. Instead, federal and state officials chose the extreme and dubious alternative of killing pups in hopes that the parents would leave. We are grieved at the inhumane violence that federal and state officials dealt towards a social, family-based species like the wolf.”
MISSOULA, MONTANA—Today, as the wolf hunting season begins in Montana—and Idaho continues its year-round slaughter of up to 90% of the states’ roughly 1,500 wolves—the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced positive initial findings on two petitions filed seeking Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for gray wolves in the western U.S.
According to a press release from the agency, USFWS determined that “the petitions present substantial, credible information indicating that a listing action may be warranted and will initiate a comprehensive status review of the gray wolf in the western U.S.” A copy of the two petitions are here and here.
“We are encouraged that the relentless pressure of the conservation community and the public has resulted in a response from USFWS on petitions to relist wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains and beyond,” said John Horning, Executive Director of WildEarth Guardians. “It’s tragic—and perhaps not coincidental—that this finding comes on the same day that the state of Montana has unleashed hunters to kill hundreds of wolves throughout the state, including on the edge of Yellowstone National Park.”
“We now need USFWS to not just issue this statement of intention, but to take swift action in moving forward with the relisting process in order to prevent wolves from being pushed back to the brink of extinction,” explained Horning.
Last month, Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission finalized rules to expand hunting season, eliminate a cap on the number of wolves that can be killed in hunting and trapping zones bordering Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park and allow individuals to kill up to 10 wolves per season. In July, Idaho’s Fish and Game Commission implemented new hunting regulations – in line with state legislation – to allow a new year-round wolf hunting season, which would enable 90% of the states’ population to be slaughtered through various cruel methods such as traps, snares and even with snowmobiles.
“On the day that Montana opened rifle hunting season on wolves, the USFWS has finally taken their head out of the sand and recognized the tremendous threats to wolves across the West,” said Sarah McMillan, Montana-based Conservation Director at WildEarth Guardians. “Unfortunately, it’s unconscionable that the USFWS thinks a commitment to make a decision in 12 months—when the agency is on full notice that up to 1,800 wolves will be killed in Montana and Idaho in the next few months alone—is an adequate response to what is clearly an emergency situation.”
WildEarth Guardians issued a separate press release earlier today regarding the start of the general wolf hunting season in Montana, which is available here.
Gray wolf in winter in Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Sam Parks.
Despite @POTUS saying he is NOT going to protect wolves, the USFWS are considering it seeing the petitions, etc they’ve received & because Idaho & Montana’s new horrific regulations & planned hunts, threaten their populations. 🙏🏼 @USFWS protect them. https://t.co/3FCKLfoGEy
For Indigenous people the removal of Endangered Species Act protections and impending decimation of #wolf populations by trophy hunters isn’t simply an “environmental” or “wildlife” issue—it's a social justice issue. Watch this video, the ACT: https://t.co/rePB96YHlKpic.twitter.com/F2fquJbFE9
Yesterday, animal welfare and conservation groups announced a reward of $15,000 for information on the poaching of the breeding female of the Wedge wolf pack. Today, Peace 4 Animals and WAN contributed $5,000 to raise the reward to $20,000 to bring justice to this slain female wolf. The mother wolf was found dead of a gunshot wound on May 26th in the Sheep Creek area of Stevens County in northeast Washington state.
Biologists with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife discovered that the female wolf likely gave birth to pups earlier this year. It is speculated that the pups would not yet have been fully weaned and that her litter might not be able to survive on their own. Tragically, the female wolf’s death is thought to mark the demise of the Wedge wolf pack, as she was likely the only remaining female left. Now, it is thought that only one male wolf remains.
While gray wolves were prematurely stripped of their federal Endangered Species Act protections, they remain protected under state law in Washington. Despite those legal safeguards, since 2010, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlifehas confirmed at least 12 poaching deaths of state-endangered wolves. Annual wolf reports issued by the agency over the same time period show that another eight to 16 additional wolves were found dead of “unknown causes.” Just a single poaching conviction resulted from these cases.
“There are currently a minimum of 178wolves remaining in Washington state,” Julia Smith, Wolf Coordinator at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife told WAN.
“It’s incredibly important to the agency to bring wildlife poaching to justice. This helps put a spotlight on poaching, and we will do anything to stop it. Poaching of any wildlife is despicable. In many cases, with help from the public, we have been able to bring poachers to justice. Any sort of help or tips we can get is greatly appreciated,” continued Smith.
Since wolves began recolonizing Washington state in 2007, humans have been responsible for the majority of their decline. Wolves have also been killed by ranchers for conflicts with livestock, as well as by hikers and hunters in so-called “self-defense,” even though wolves try to avoid humans and are not known to attack people.
“Sadly, it’s not surprising, after months of expanded and legalized wolf-killing across the country, that a criminal would be emboldened to poach a wolf in Washington,” said Samantha Bruegger, Wildlife Coexistence Campaigner for WildEarth Guardians.“We hope for justice for this wolf, but we know that even more wolves will die nationwide, legally and illegally, until Endangered Species Act protections are restored.”
Anyone with information regarding this sickening incident should call the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife at (360) 902-2928, report a violation on the department’s website, or text WDFWTIP to 847411.
You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg
A new study in Wisconsin suggests the predators keep prey away from roads, reducing crashes by 24 percent
Each year, nearly 20,000 Wisconsin residents collide with deer each year, which leads to about 477 injuries and eight deaths annually. (Photo by Ken Mattison via Flickr under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
smithsonianmag.com May 26, 2021
Research published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences highlights an underappreciated benefit of wild wolf populations: the large predators frighten deer away from dangerous roadways, saving money and lives in the process.
According to the analysis 22 years of data, a county’s deer-vehicle collisions fall by about 24 percent after wolves take up residence there, Christina Larson reports for the Associated Press. Nearly 20,000 Wisconsin residents collide with deer each year, which leads to about 477 injuries and eight deaths annually. There are 29 counties in Wisconsin that have wolves.
“Some lives are saved, some injuries are prevented, and a huge amount of damage and time are saved by having wolves present,” says Wesleyan University natural resource economist Jennifer Raynor to Ed Yong at the Atlantic.
The study estimates that wolves save Wisconsin about $10.9 million in losses each year in prevented car crashes, which is far greater than the compensation paid by the state to people who lose pets or livestock to wolves.
“Most economic studies of wolves have been negative, focusing on livestock losses,” says wolf expert Dave Mech, who works at the U.S. Geological Survey in Minnesota and was not involved in the study, to the AP. “But wolves also reshape ecosystems in many ways, although that’s hard to measure economically.”
Most of the reduction in collisions was due to the “landscape of fear” that wolves create. Wolves tend to follow clear paths through the landscape, like streams. In an area that has been developed by humans, wolves follow roads, trails and pipelines. Deer adapt to the wolves’ presence by staying away, which would reduce the chance that they would get hit by a car.
“The icing on the cake is that wolves do this work all year long at their own expense,” says Western University ecologist Liana Zanette, who was not involved in the study, to the Atlantic. “It all seems like a win-win for those wolf counties.”
Wolves killing deer only accounted for about six percent of the drop in deer-vehicle collisions, reports Jack J. Lee for Science News. The drop in collisions didn’t just happen because wolves kill deer, so culling deerduring hunting season wouldn’t necessarily limit car collisions to the same extent as having wolves present.
The deer that the wolves do manage to kill would likely be the least risk-averse, and most likely to run in front of cars. But a detailed understanding of wolf and deer behavior would come from research that tracks the animals with collars, which was not a part of the new study, says University of Wyoming ecologist Matthew Kauffman to the Atlantic.
The research stands out from other studies of wolves’ impact on the environment because it highlights a benefit that wolves bring to the humans that live nearby. The regions that support wolf reintroduction tend to be urban, while rural communities generally oppose it. That was the case in Colorado, where wolf reintroduction narrowly passed in a vote in November. In sharp contrast, the Idaho state government recently passed a law to kill 90 percent of its wolves.
“The most interesting thing to me about choosing Wisconsin as a case study is that this is a human-dominated landscape,” says Raynor to Science News.
The estimated savings to Wisconsin are about 63 times higher than the cost of compensating people for losses caused by wolves. Raynor adds to Science News there are economic factors that weren’t taken into account in the new study, like the cost by deer to agriculture and through Lyme disease.
Adrian Treves, a conservation biologist at the University of Wisconsin, tells the AP that the study “adds to growing awareness that scientists should consider both the costs and the benefits of having large carnivores on the landscape.”
Help Mexican gray wolves by showing your support for translocating the Negrito Mexican gray wolf family to Ladder Ranch, where they can be safe and free! The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USWFS) plans to move the bonded wolf family (M1693, F1728, and their young pups) onto the excellent habitat – away livestock grazing – that Ladder Ranch offers.
Currently, Mexican gray wolves within the wild population are as related to one another as full siblings. The captive population, however, is more genetically diverse. So, to address the genetic bottleneck facing the wild wolf population, the Mexican wolf Recovery Team selects captive wolves for release to capitalize on the remaining genetic potential available in that population.
Since 2016, USFWS excessively reliant on just a single strategy to release captive wolves to the wild – their cross-foster initiative. Cross-fostering is a coordinated event where captive-born pups are introduced into a similar-aged wild litter to be raised by surrogate parents. But cross-fostered pups can only eventually spread their genes to the greater population if they survive to adulthood and have wild pups of their own.
With the translocation of the Negrito pack, USFWS is allowing this family to establish a territory where there will be fewer threats presented by livestock grazing. They are also giving Mexican gray wolf M1693, a cross-foster wolf himself (from 2018) who has unique genetics, a chance to fulfill his potential in aiding in the genetic rescue of endangered subspecies!
Please join us in thanking the USFWS for doing the right thing for this wolf family and ensuring they have a chance to raise their pups in the wild where they belong!
Anyone can submit a comment to USFWS Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator Brady McGee, regardless of geographic location! The deadline for public comments is May 24, 2021.
Tell USFWS you support the Ladder Ranch Reserve 2021 Wolf Translocation Plan for the Negrito Pack (M1693, F1728, and their young pups)
Thank them for helping this wolf family return to the wild where they belong! Tell them you support the release of bonded family groups to aid in the genetic rescue of endangered Mexican gray wolves.
Tell them this wolf pack will make a positive genetic contribution to the wild population.
Tell them the Ladder Ranch offers excellent habitat for wolves and will ensure that this young wolf family can thrive in the wild away from human activities and livestock grazing.
Please personalize your message. Nothing is as effective as speaking from the heart!
Support for the Ladder Ranch Translocation Proposal
Dear [Decision Maker], As a lifelong supporter of Endangered Species Act (ESA) and someone who cares deeply for our nation’s wolves, including endangered Mexican gray wolves, I am writing to express my support for the Ladder Ranch Reserve 2021 Wolf Translocation Plan for the Negrito wolf family (M1693, F1728, and their young pups). * Personalize your message
I applaud USFWS for taking these steps, and look forward to cheering USFWS on as you proceed with your full authority to translocate this wolf family onto the excellent habitat – away from livestock grazing – that Ladder Ranch offers.
115 Top U.S. Wolf Experts, Scientists Urge Biden Administration to Restore Federal Protections for Gray Wolves
State Wildlife Agencies Reject Science, Demonstrate Inability to Sustain Wolf Populations
WASHINGTON— More than 100 scientists today called upon Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reinstate federal protections for gray wolves under the Endangered Species Act.
Wolves lost their federal protections when the Trump administration finalized a national delisting rule in January. Since then, management of wolves has fallen to state wildlife agencies. The letter explains that “state governments have clearly indicated that they will manage wolves to the lowest allowable standards.”
Under the Endangered Species Act, all decisions about the listing of imperiled species must be based solely on the best available science. The scientists’ letter calls upon the federal officials to reinstate federal protections for wolves and “reverse recent and broad trends that have disregarded best-available science with respect to the ESA.”
The letter is endorsed by 115 scientists with expertise in areas related to wolf conservation, such as ecology, population dynamics and genetics. The letter is led by John Vucetich, a professor at Michigan Technological University, and Jeremy Bruskotter, a professor at Ohio State University.
“It’s very clear. The best-available science shows that gray wolves in the lower 48 states do not meet the law’s requirements for recovery,” said Vucetich. “Not being recovered, combined with hostile treatment of wolves by states such as Montana, Idaho and Wisconsin, indicates the need for federally guided conservation of wolves.”
“Emerging science and our experience with wolf conservation indicate there is far more suitable habitat for wolves than was once believed,” said Bruskotter. “Recovering wolves in other suitable areas depends critically on wolves dispersing from existing recovery areas. The recent politicization of wolf management in states like Idaho and Montana puts long-term recovery of wolves in jeopardy by reducing the probability of such dispersals.”
On his first day in office, President Biden ordered a broad review of the Trump administration’s anti-wildlife policies, including the decision to strip Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves. Since then, hundreds of wolves have been killed under state management. The Fish and Wildlife Service has yet to issue any official review of the gray wolf delisting rule.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
The Endangered Species Coalition’s mission is to stop the human-caused extinction of our nation’s at-risk species, to protect and restore their habitats, and to guide these fragile populations along the road to recovery.
Even some hunters, don’t like this wholesale slaughter of wolves. A group called Hunter for Wolves have put up billboards in Wisconsin saying ‘Real hunters don’t kill wolves’. We hope the majority of silent hunters agree.🤞🏻 https://t.co/qHG0oUfZhM
Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) this week signed a measure that would eliminate most limits on hunting wolves in the state.
Under the law, which will take effect in the months ahead, private contractors and hunters in the state will be authorized to kill more than 90 percent of wolves in Idaho. The measure also nearly triples the budget for the state Wolf Depredation Control Board from $110,000 to $300,000.
The bill passed the GOP-dominated state legislature largely along party lines. Under a 2002 conservation agreement, the state is required to allow at least 150 wolves and 15 packs to live in the state. The current number of wolves is estimated at around 1,500. Wolves were delisted from the state’s endangered species list in 2011.
State House Majority Leader Mike Moyle (R), a co-sponsor of the bill, called the measure necessary for preventing wolves from having a detrimental effect on other wildlife in the state.
“We have areas of the state where the wolves are having a real detrimental impact on our wildlife,” he said in April, according to The Associated Press. “They are hurting the herds, elk and deer. This allows the Wolf (Depredation) Control Board and others to control them, also, which we have not done in the past.”
Environmental groups have blasted the decision and called for Little to veto it before he signed it Wednesday.
“Backed by an array of misinformation and fearmongering, the state legislature stepped over experts at the Idaho Fish and Game Department and rushed to pass this horrific wolf-killing bill,” Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.
“And Republican lawmakers have promised that this is just the beginning, even though the new measure would doom 90% of Idaho’s wolves. We’re disappointed that Gov. Little signed such a cruel and ill-conceived bill into law.”
Amanda Wight, program manager of wildlife protection for the Humane Society of the United States, called the bill “a death warrant for hundreds of Idaho’s iconic and beloved wolves.”
“This bill, which has no grounding in science or public values, demonstrates that Idaho can no longer responsibly manage its wolves,” Wight told The Hill in a statement. “The time has come for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to step in and abide by their obligations to review and relist these imperiled animals under the Endangered Species Act now that Idaho is allowing unlimited killing.”
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission has also spoken out against the measure, saying it could undermine the commission’s authority, according to the AP.
When a rancher claims to have lost livestock due to Mexican wolf predation, there are several ways that they can seek compensation. One of those ways is a program run by the U.S.D.A Farm Services Agency (FSA) known as the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), which provides compensation for livestock lost due to attack by animals reintroduced to the wild by the Federal Government. To get this compensation: “Owners or contract growers who suffer livestock losses due to an eligible cause of loss must submit a notice of loss and an application for payment to the local FSA office that serves the physical location county where the livestock losses occurred. All of the owner’s or contract grower’s interest in inventory of eligible livestock in that county for the calendar year must be accounted for and summarized when determining eligibility.” In short, the ranchers’ say so is all they really need for proof.
In 2020, the FSA paid out $588,940.19 under the LIP for livestock lost in 2019 in Catron County, New Mexico because of Mexican wolves. This money went to just eleven livestock owners, for 1130 head. Yes, 1,130 head of “beef.” I confirmed twice that there were only wolf payments in 2019 and no weather-related claims.
According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service there were just 87 wolves in New Mexico in 2019. If all the wolves in New Mexico in 2019 were responsible for the loss or injury of 1130 head of livestock on these 11 ranches in Catron County, it would mean that each wolf was responsible for the death or injury of nearly 13 head of cattle in 2019, and that cattle were being killed or injured at the rate of three a day on just these ranches.
So, let’s game that out: The second highest paid recipient of LIP funds in Catron County in 2019 was Canyon del Buey (yes, that Canyon del Buey) and it raked in $89,395 for lost livestock. Using the average rate of payment per head ($521.18) – which is just a best guess of how to calculate this – Canyon del Buey claimed to have lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 170 head in 2019. (Mind you, this permit was revoked in August 2019, and so the claim reflects ~170 head in just 8 months.) The Canyon del Buey allotment’s Forest Service annual operating instructions only authorized a max of 286 cow/calf pairs that year. Like I said, that 170 is just an estimate and my best guess based on the information available. Maybe Canyon del Buey lost a bunch of $1,191 bulls instead – but it would have had to lose 75 bulls in 8 months to qualify for nearly $90K in 2019.
That’s a lot of bull.
About The Author
Greta Anderson is a plant nerd, a desert rat, and a fan of wildness. She is the Deputy Director of Western Watersheds Project.
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho House on Tuesday approved legislation allowing the state to hire private contractors and expand methods to kill wolves roaming Idaho — a measure that could cut the wolf population by 90%.
Lawmakers voted 58-11 to send the agriculture industry-backed bill to Republican Gov. Brad Little. The fast-tracked bill that allows the use of night-vision equipment to kill wolves as well as hunting from snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles, among other measures, passed the Senate last week.
Backers said changes to Idaho law could help reduce the wolf population from about 1,500 to 150, alleviating wolf attacks on cattle, sheep and wildlife.
“We have areas of the state where the wolves are having a real detrimental impact on our wildlife,” said House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, one of the bill’s sponsors. “They are hurting the herds, elk and deer. This allows the Wolf (Depredation) Control Board and others to control them, also, which we have not done in the past.”
Cattle and sheep ranchers say wolves have cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars by killing animals or harassing them, causing them to lose weight, making them less valuable when they are sold.
Opponents said the legislation threatens a 2002 wolf management plan involving the federal government that could ultimately lead to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service taking back control of managing the state’s wolves.
Environmental groups blasted the House’s approval of the measure and called on Republican Gov. Brad Little to veto the legislation.
“The bill will waste millions of dollars of public funds on killing wolves, and threatens to ultimately return the species to the endangered species list and federal management,” the Western Watersheds Project and about a dozen other environmental groups said in a statement.
A primary change in the new law is the hiring of private contractors to kill wolves. The legislation includes increasing the amount of money the Idaho Department of Fish and Game sends to the Idaho Wolf Depredation Control board from $110,000 to $300,000. The board, created in 2014, is an agency within the governor’s office that manages state money it receives to kill wolves.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game reported in February that the wolf population has been holding at about 1,500 the past two years. The numbers were derived by using remote cameras and other methods.
About 500 wolves have been killed in the state in each of the last two years by hunters, trappers and wolf-control measures carried out by state and federal authorities.
Idaho’s 2002 wolf conservation and management plan calls for at least 150 wolves and 15 packs in Idaho. Backers have said the state is allowed to increase the killing of wolves to reach that level. If the wolf population falls below 150, the killing of wolves would have to be reduced.
Also according to the plan, if Idaho’s wolf population fell to 100, there’s a possibility the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could resume management of its wolf population. The 2002 document says wolf management could revert to what was in place when wolves were listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission, which manages the state’s wildlife, opposed the measure. The commission, while noting it also wanted to reduce the wolf population, cited concerns that the proposed law would override certain commission decisions.
Opponents said that Idaho residents want the Fish and Game Commission to decide wildlife policy, not lawmakers.
Ken Canning Wolves across the US are again being persecuted under state management. The State of Idaho has adopted legislation that allows for the killing of 90% of the wolves statewide including newborn pups and nursing mothers in their dens. The State of Montana has adopted a bounty system similar to the one that led to the eradication of wolves from the West. The State of Wisconsin opened a hunting season without adequate regulations in place and hundreds of wolves were destroyed within days. Wolves need to regain the protection of the Endangered Species Act NOW! Please take action to restore vital protections to prevent the eradication of wolves from states that are unable or unwilling to manage wolves responsibly.
To: US Interior Secretary Deb Haaland From: [Your Name]
Please Act Now to Save America’s Wolves!
I’m writing to ask you to help save our wolves in the United States. I care deeply about the plight of wolves in our country and wolves across the US are again being persecuted under state authority. The State of Idaho has adopted legislation that allows for the killing of 90% of the wolves statewide including newborn pups and nursing mothers in their dens. The State of Montana has adopted a bounty system similar to the one led to the eradication of wolves from the West. The State of Wisconsin opened a hunting season without adequate regulations in place and hundreds of wolves were destroyed in days. Wolves need to regain the protection of the Endangered Species Act now! Please take action to restore vital protections to prevent the eradication of wolves from states that are unable or unwilling to manage wolves responsibly.
There is no excuse for the persecution of wolves in our country. Wolves are an essential species in helping to maintain healthy elk and deer herds by culling diseased animals and encouraging dispersal of large herds into smaller herds that are more sustainable to their habitat. Livestock losses to wolves remain low – less than 1 percent of cattle in wolf range are lost to wolves – and there are highly effective nonlethal deterrents that can better protect sheep, cattle, and wolves.
These states are changing their state wolf legislation to the point they are no longer sufficient to protect wolves from eradication. You have the ability to restore their protection under the Endangered Species Act before it’s too late. Please take action now. Our nation’s wolves must be protected from this Old West approach that is nothing more than an archaic and brutal campaign to eradicate their numbers.
Four draconian wolf killing bills are incredibly close to becoming law in Montana. The bills would allow trappers to snare wolves, extend the wolf trapping season, place a bounty on wolves, and allow every individual with a wolf hunting or trapping license to kill an unlimited number of wolves, allow the use of bait while hunting or trapping wolves, permit the hunting of wolves at night on private land with the use of artificial lights or night vision scopes.
Whether you’re a Montana resident or a Montana visitor who values wolves in the wild, please sign this petition urging Montana Governor Greg Gianforte—who violated state hunting regulations when he trapped and shot a collared wolf near Yellowstone National Park in February—to veto these backward, disgraceful, and outrageous bills.
338,125 SUPPORTERS 340,000 GOAL Gray wolves will be thrust back onto the brink of extinction if the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposition is allowed to stand.
The Department intends to delist gray wolves in the contiguous 48 states from the Endangered Species Act, removing the crucial protections they currently have under the law.
This political move jeopardizes wolves nationwide and would pave the way for trophy hunting of wolves in states where the ESA currently protects them, such as Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Oregon. Further, it hinders the possibility of wolves returning to other states where there is suitable habitat.
The last time wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin lost federal ESA protections, nearly 1,500 of them were killed in just three seasons — many were pups. This proposed rule is scientifically unsound and politically motivated. Will you sit by while another species goes extinct?
We need your voice to oppose this misguided proposal. Without opposition, legislators will push this through and put the nation’s gray wolf population at critical risk.
Please join the fight using the form below, and tell the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service that you oppose their proposal to delist gray wolves from the ESA.read petition letter ▾Subject: Please keep gray wolves listed under the ESA
Dear U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
I oppose the proposed rule to delist gray wolves in the contiguous 48 states from the Endangered Species Act. Removing ESA protections now would jeopardize the fragile recovery that wolves have only just begun after having been hunted to near-extinction. It would also expose imperiled populations to the horrors of trophy hunting and trapping.
Montana’s newly elected Republican governor violated state hunting regulations when he trapped and shot a collared wolf near Yellowstone National Park in February, according to documents obtained by the Mountain West News Bureau.
While wolves are protected inside Yellowstone National Park, it’s legal to hunt and trap wolves in Montana – including wolves that wander beyond the park’s boundaries – in accordance with state regulations.
Gianforte violated Montana regulations by harvesting the wolf without first completing a state-mandated wolf trapping certification course. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks issued the governor a written warning, and he promised to take the three-hour online course March 24.
According to Montana’s wolf hunting regulations, “A person must attend and complete a wolf-trapping certification class before setting any trap for a wolf,” and the state-issued certificate “must be in possession of any person setting wolf traps and/or harvesting a wolf by trap.”
The course gives would-be wolf trappers “the background and rules to do so ethically, humanely, and lawfully,” the course’s student manual states.
John Sullivan, Montana chapter chair for the sportsmen’s group Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, said the governor should’ve known about the certification requirements.
“He has been hunting and trapping for a long time and I would be surprised to learn that he didn’t know better than to complete that education,” Sullivan said. “We hope that he apologizes to the citizens of the state for circumventing the process that we all have to go through.”
“It’s difficult to fathom accidentally not taking that class,” he added. “When you go to buy your wolf trapping license online it clearly states that trapper education is required.”
The governor’s spokesperson, Brooke Stroyke, said in an emailed statement that “after learning he had not completed the wolf-trapping certification, Governor Gianforte immediately rectified the mistake and enrolled in the wolf-trapping certification course.”
The governor did have all the necessary hunting licenses to harvest a wolf, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesperson Greg Lemon.
“Typically, we approach this sort of incident as an educational opportunity, particularly when the person in question is forthright in what happened and honest about the circumstances,” Lemon said in an email. “That was the case here with Gov. Gianforte.”
Lemon said the warning was a “typical operation procedure” and the governor was allowed to keep the skull and hide. As governor, Gianforte oversees Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and appointed its director earlier this year.
Word of Gianforte’s wolf-kill violation comes as the Republican-controlled Montana Legislature appears poised to send to his desk bills aimed at aggressively reducing the state’s wolf population through hunting and trapping. One would reimburse wolf trappers for the costs they incur, which critics call a “bounty.”
The incident highlights the polarized and overlapping debates in the West over how to manage growing wolf populations and trapping’s role – if it has one at all – in wildlife management. A decade after wolves were stripped of Endangered Species Act protections in the Northern Rockies, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming are asserting aggressive wolf management policies, while Colorado voters recently decided to reintroduce wolves to the Western Slope.
Meanwhile, the New Mexico Legislature last week approved a bill banning the use of wildlife traps, snares and poison on public lands across the state, likely joining the growing number of Western states that have outlawed the practice increasingly viewed as cruel.
“It’s clearly not an ethical chase,” said Mike Garrity, executive director for the nonprofit environmental group Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “Ethical hunters try to have a clean shot so they kill the animal instantly. Trapping obviously doesn’t do that. They suffer for a long time and who knows how long that wolf was trapped before the governor went out and killed it.”
Wolf 1155 was born in Yellowstone National Park and was issued a radio collar by wildlife biologists in 2018, according to park spokesperson Morgan Warthin. Collars allow scientists to track the movements – and deaths – of wolves. 1155 was initially a member of the Wapiti Lake pack but is now considered a “dispersed male,” which means it had wandered away from the pack to find a mate elsewhere.
Yellowstone wolves hold a special place in the nation’s heart, according to Jonathan Proctor, director of the Rockies and Plains program for the environmental group Defenders of Wildlife.
“People from all over the world come to Yellowstone specifically to see these wolves,” he said. “The fact that they can be killed so easily, right on the edge of the park in the state of Montana, for only a few dollars for a permit to trap a wolf – it makes no sense, either ecologically or economically.”
There are about 94 wolves living within the park, according to data from last year. Warthin said this was the first Yellowstone-collared wolf to be killed by a hunter or trapper this year.
Gianforte killed 1155 on Feb. 15. It’s unclear when Gianforte first laid the traps. State regulations require that trappers check their traps every 48 hours and report wolf kills to FWP within 24 hours. Trappers also have the option of releasing a collared wolf.
This is the second time Gianforte’s personal actions sparked controversy. In 2017, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault after he body-slammed a reporter from the British newspaper The Guardian. He was sentenced to community service and anger management.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
It is with a heavy heart that I share devastating news about a beloved matriarch. Red wolf Veronica, also known as F1858, passed away earlier today from a closed pyometra. She was nine years old.
Veronica joined the Wolf Conservation Center pack in 2017 when she and her family arrived from the Museum of Life and Science in North Carolina. Unbeknownst to them, the endangered group quickly burst into the hearts and minds of a global audience thanks to the WCC’s live-streaming webcams. Viewers exclaimed with joy and delight watching Veronica guide her rambunctious pups through their developmental years, and celebrated from afar when the experienced mother of four became a mother of ten – she gave birth to six pups in 2018!
As the family grew in size, so did Veronica’s influence. She taught her children the importance of love, teamwork, and family – and that there’s always time for a quick romp in the snow or a harmonious howl. Red wolf Veronica and her daughter SkyRae enjoying the snow.
We can be better and do better because she lived. Her loving and tenacious spirit will empower us to continue the fight to safeguard the wild legacy she leaves behind.
Our hearts go out to her family (mate Sam and children Tom, Notch, Gilda, Penny, Martha, SkyRae, Rich, Max, Hunter, and Shane) and the many people who she had unknowingly touched. Thanks to her, millions of people are connected to the plight of red wolves and are dedicated to their recovery.
RIP, Veronica. We miss your nurturing soul already.
AnimalsWisconsin has approved 200 wolves to be killed in a February hunt. Michael Cummings / Getty Images
As the former and current administration’s endangered species policies battle for prominence, Wisconsin’s wolves are caught in the crosshairs, literally.
When the Trump administration delisted gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act, it triggered a Wisconsin law requiring the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to hold a wolf hunt from mid-October through February, Wisconsin Public Radio reported. The DNR originally said it would wait until November 2021 to prepare a hunt, but hunting advocates sued to speed up the process, and last week a judge ordered the board to prepare a February hunt. This prompted the DNR to set a quota on Monday of 200 gray wolves that can be killed before the end of the month.
Wildlife advocates oppose the move, pointing out that the rushed hunt will take place during the wolves’ breeding season.
“You remove one, you’re essentially destabilizing and killing the entire pack,” Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf and Wildlife Executive Director Melissa Smith told Public News Service. “So, we expect this to be pretty detrimental to our wolf population.”
The federal delisting of wolves officially went into effect in January. In December, the DNR said it would wait until November to set a hunting quota, arguing that it needed more time to make a scientifically sound plan and consult with tribes and the public, according to Wisconsin Public Radio. In late January, the state’s Natural Resources Board rejected a push from Republican lawmakers to speed up the quota, Wisconsin Public Radio reported at the time.
However, Kansas-based group Hunter Nation sued the state to start the hunt this winter. It argued that delaying the hunt violated hunters’ constitutional rights, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. Circuit Judge Bennett Brantmeier ruled in the group’s favor. While Wisconsin is appealing this decision, the Natural Resources Board still voted Monday to authorize a February hunt.
The hunt will allow the killing of 200 wolves that aren’t on tribal reservations, according to the DNR website. The hunt will last from Feb. 22 to Feb. 28, and hunters can apply for a permit between Feb. 16 and Feb. 20. The state will issue 4,000 permits, the Wisconsin State Journal reported, which is twice the number that staff recommended.
The department said it based the quota on the best available science, without intending to increase or decrease the state’s wolf population. However, DNR members said they would have made a more accurate decision given more time. They also did not have a chance to fully consult with tribes or gather public input.
“Was there more we would like to do? Yes,” Keith Warnke, administrator of fish, wildlife and parks for the DNR, told Wisconsin Public Radio. “Are we confident and comfortable with the quota recommendation we made? I think… we would have been more confident and more comfortable had we taken more time.”null
There are currently 1,195 wolves in Wisconsin, according to DNR. The last time the state managed the population, it set a quota of 350 wolves in 1999 and last updated it in 2007, wildlife advocates point out. Indigenous groups also argue that wolves are sacred to their communities, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. On the other side, those who support hunting argue that wolves are a threat to livestock and rural residents. But wildlife advocates counter that hunting is not the solution to human and wolf conflicts.
“Indiscriminate killing of wolves actually increases conflicts and spreads deer disease like CWD, so the special interests like the farm bureau and sportsmen’s groups are not only doing a disservice to themselves pushing an early wolf hunt but may cause the wolf to be relisted again,” Northern Wisconsin resident Britt Ricci said in a Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf and Wildlife statement.
Fear of new federal protections are partly behind the push for a hunt this winter, Wisconsin Public Radio reported. The Biden administration has called for a review of the Trump administration’s agency rules, including the delisting of wolves.
“And so, they want to rush and try to kill as many as they can in a short time as possible during a sensitive breeding season,” Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf’s Smith told Public News Service.
Gray wolves lost federal Endangered Species Act protections on January 4, 2021. The reckless decision by the Trump administration applies to all gray wolves in the lower 48 states despite the lack of scientific evidence showing true recovery across gray wolves’ historic range.
WildEarth Guardians and our partners filed a legal challenge to reverse this heinous decision on January 14. For now, management of wolf populations has returned to individual state wildlife agencies, some of which are notoriously anti-wolf and are already planning hunting and trapping season on wolves.
We can’t abandon fragile wolf-recovery efforts and allow anti-wolf states, hunters, and trappers to push these iconic species back to the brink of extinction. Sign this petition urging the Biden administration to take action to halt the impending slaughter and begin the process of restoring Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves.
Dear President Biden, Personalize your message As you know, the Trump administration stripped Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections from gray wolves across the entire lower 48 on January 4, 2021. If allowed to remain in place, states can expand wolf trophy hunting, trapping, and decimate this still unrecovered species as soon as January 2021. The most recent data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and its state partners show only an estimated 108 wolves in Washington state, 158 in Oregon, and a scant 15 in California. Nevada, Utah, and Colorado have had a few wolf sightings over the past three years, but wolves remain functionally extinct in these states. In delisting wolves, USFWS ignores the science showing they are not recovered in the West. Wolves only occupy a small portion of available, suitable habitat in Oregon and Washington, and remain absent across vast swaths of their historical habitat in the West, including in Colorado and the southern Rockies. The restoration of gray wolves could be a heroic success story, but it will be cut tragically short if wolves lose further protection under the ESA now. We can’t let fragile wolf-recovery efforts to be stalled and allow states, hunters, and trappers to push the species back to the brink of extinction. Please ensure gray wolves have a future by taking immediate action to halt the impending slaughter and begin the process of restoring ESA protections for gray wolves.
WildEarth Guardians protects and restores the wildlife, wild places, wild rivers, and health of the American West.
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The Trump administration issued a significant number of rules and deregulations that will disastrously impact immigration, the environment, endangered species habitat, and employment, among other issues.
These rules do not have to be permanently enacted, however. Congress can fast-track reversal of rulemakings from the Trump administration under the Congressional Review Act (CRA).
Under the CRA, agencies are required to submit to Congress notice of a finalized rule. Once notified, Congress has the option of passing a joint resolution of disapproval to overturn the rule. If that passes both chambers of Congress and is signed into law by the President, the rule is immediately overturned and has no effect both proactively and retroactively. Importantly, a joint resolution of disapproval need only pass by a simple majority in both chambers.
This means that Congress has the power to negate Trump’s harmful rules!
There is a time limit: the CRA only encompasses Trump’s rules created since August 2020 and the new Congress has 60 days to act. That is why we must press them to act immediately.
There are MANY Trump rules and deregulations that fall under the scope of the CRA. We must demand Congress and President Biden act swiftly to undo so much damage that Trump has done to our country.
Sign the petition: Demand Congress reverse the damage done by Trump and remove his rules under the CRA.
Sign our petition calling on the U.S. Department of the Interior to end trapping in the National Wildlife Refuge System!
There is no place for cruel and unnecessary traps – snares, Conibear traps, or steel-jaw leghold traps – on public lands, which include national parks, national preserves, and national wildlife refuges. Instead of areas of safety, these sacred places have been transformed into killing fields. Each year, millions of animals who call these public lands home languish in cruel traps for hours, and even days, before they are brutally killed. Even iconic North American species such as bald eagles, black bears, grey wolves, bobcats, and other sensitive species have been found in leghold traps and snares. The U.S. Department of the Interior and the corresponding agencies should immediately and publicly announce their support for ending cruel and unnecessary trapping on public lands. Email Address* First Name* Last Name* I would like to join Born Free USA’s email list. SIGN THE PETITION 9055 Signatures 91% Goal: 10000
Are the wolves of Yellowstone National Park the first line of defense against a terrible disease that preys on herds of wildlife?
That’s the question for a research project underway in the park, and preliminary results suggest that the answer is yes. Researchers are studying what is known as the predator cleansing effect, which occurs when a predator sustains the health of a prey population by killing the sickest animals. If the idea holds, it could mean that wolves have a role to play in limiting the spread of chronic wasting disease, which is infecting deer and similar animals across the country and around the world. Experts fear that it could one day jump to humans.
“There is no management tool that is effective” for controlling the disease, said Ellen Brandell, a doctoral student in wildlife ecology at Penn State University who is leading the project in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service. “There is no vaccine. Can predators potentially be the solution?”
Many biologists and conservationists say that more research would strengthen the case that reintroducing more wolves in certain parts of the United States could help manage wildlife diseases, although the idea is sure to face pushback from hunters, ranchers and others concerned about competition from wolves.
Chronic wasting disease, a contagious neurological disease, is so unusual that some experts call it a “disease from outer space.” First discovered among wild deer in 1981, it leads to deterioration of brain tissue in cervids, mostly deer but also elk, moose and caribou, with symptoms such as listlessness, drooling, staggering, emaciation and death.
It is caused by an abnormal version of a cell protein called a prion, which functions very differently than bacteria or viruses. The disease has spread across wild cervid populations and is now found in 26 states and several Canadian provinces, as well as South Korea and Scandinavia.
The disease is part of a group called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, the most famous of which is bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease. Mad cow in humans causes a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and there was an outbreak among people in the 1990s in Britain from eating tainted meat.
Cooking does not kill the prions, and experts fear that chronic wasting disease could spread to humans who hunt and consume deer or other animals that are infected with it.
The disease has infected many deer herds in Wyoming, and it spread to Montana in 2017. Both states are adjacent to Yellowstone, so experts are concerned that the deadly disease could soon make its way into the park’s vast herds of elk and deer.
Unless, perhaps, the park’s 10 packs of wolves, which altogether contain about 100 individuals, preyed on and consumed diseased animals that were easier to pick off because of their illness (the disease does not appear to infect wolves).Coronavirus Briefing: An informed guide to the global outbreak, with the latest developments and expert advice.
“Wolves have really been touted as the best type of animal to remove infected deer, because they are cursorial — they chase their prey and they look for the weak ones,” said Ms. Brandell. By this logic, diseased deer and other animals would be the most likely to be eliminated by wolves.
Preliminary results in Yellowstone have shown that wolves can delay outbreaks of chronic wasting disease in their prey species and can decrease outbreak size, Ms. Brandell said. There is little published research on “predator cleansing,” and this study aims to add support for the use of predators to manage disease.
A prime concern about the spread of chronic wasting disease in the Yellowstone region is the fact that Wyoming maintains 22 state-sponsored feeding grounds that concentrate large numbers of elk unnaturally in the Yellowstone region. And just south of Grand Teton National Park lies the National Elk Refuge, where thousands of animals, displaced by cattle ranches, are fed each winter to satisfy elk hunters and tourists. Many wildlife biologists say concentrating the animals in such small areas is a recipe for the rapid spread of chronic wasting disease.
When cases of the disease among deer ranged from 5 to 50 percent in Wisconsin and Colorado, those states were considered hot spots. But if the disease gets into game farms like the ones in Wyoming, “prevalence rates skyrocket to 90 or 100 percent,” said Mark Zabel, associate director of the Prion Research Center at Colorado State University.
Prions are especially deadly. Unlike bacteria and viruses, prions can persist in soil for 10 years or more and endure on vegetation. Even if a herd dies out or is culled, new animals moving in can become infected.
The origin of the disease is unknown. Andrew P. Dobson, a professor of ecology and epidemiology at Princeton who has studied predator cleansing, believes the illness is largely the result of ecosystems with too few predators and scavengers.
He speculates that the disease may have come from deer living in proximity to sheep in Colorado or Wyoming, where it was first identified. Sheep have carried scrapie — effectively mad cow disease for sheep — for centuries. Dr. Dobson has theorized that after a contaminated animal died, it may have lain on the ground for a while in the absence of predators and scavengers, which would usually clean up carcasses.
Elk and deer must have calcium, he said, and they may have eaten the bones of a contaminated animal and spread the disease.
The absence of wolves throughout much of the West may also have allowed the disease to take off. “Taking the sick and weak removes chronic wasting disease from the population, because any animal showing any signs of it will get killed and eaten by the wolves,” Dr. Dobson said. “The rest of the carcass gets cleaned up by the coyotes, the bald eagles, ravens and bears.”
“Without predators and scavengers on the landscape, animal components last much longer, and that can definitely have an impact on the spread of disease,” Ms. Brandell said.
Restoring the population of predators in national parks and wild lands would go a long way toward healthier ecosystems with less disease, Dr. Dobson said.
Ken McDonald, chief of the wildlife division of Montana’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department, expressed doubts that wolves would prevent chronic wasting disease.
“Wolves help remove sick animals, but animals don’t get visibly ill for about 2 years,” he said. “So they are carriers and spreaders but don’t get the classic symptoms.”
Mr. McDonald said that maintaining a large enough wolf population outside of Yellowstone to control chronic wasting disease would require so many wolves that it would be socially unacceptable, especially to ranchers and hunters.
The state’s approach to controlling the disease, he said, is to increase the number of deer that can be killed in places where the disease is growing.
Ms. Brandell, however, said that wolves may detect the disease long before it becomes apparent to people, through smell or a slight change in the movement of prey, which could be beneficial.
Trespassing bull on the Canyon del Buey allotment, June 12, 2020. Photo: G. Anderson/WWP
Thiessen appealed the loss of his permit all the way up to the regional director, who affirmed the District Ranger’s decision and ordered the cows off Canyon del Buey allotment by the end of August 2019. As you can probably guess, Thiessen defied this direction and his cows are still in trespass on the Gila National Forest. There’s been some legal back and forth between Theissen and the feds and that process is ongoing (more on that here soon), but there’s something else for the taxpaying public to be enraged about:
Canyon del Buey LLC was the largest recipient of Farm Bill livestock subsidies in Catron County in 2019, raking in $135,683 dollars of federal funding. Of that, $119,029 came under the “Livestock Indemnity Program” which is designated for livestock losses in excess than usual due to extreme weather or due to animals reintroduced by the federal government, i.e. wolves. It’s impossible (so far) to determine whether the Thiessens got money for extreme weather or livestock depredations, but at about $1,000K per head (see page 6 at link), that’s a whole lot of dead cows we taxpayers are paying for. (And it’s not the first time: Craig Thiessen has also received almost $400,000since he whacked Mia Tuk.)
This was in addition to the $9,550.50 Craig Thiessen got for claimed wolf depredations in 2019. Not clear which livestock were his, but as we’ve shown, many of the Catron County wolf depredation reports are a little more than fishy. At least that $9,550.50 came out of a privately-established compensation fund (the “Groves Estate”) and not taxpayer pockets, but it’s kind of offensive that someone who admitted to bludgeoning a wolf pup to death with a shovel can turn around and get money for his dead cows. It’s almost as if the game is rigged to benefit wolf-hating ranchers.
Cattlemen Tell EnviroNews Ranchers Want Mexican Wolves Killed, Despite Being Paid for Livestock Losses
14 – 17 minutes
(EnviroNews Arizona) — Parts of eastern Arizona are a conflict zone, as a 100-year war between ranchers, conservation groups, government agencies, and the endangered Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) rages on. The rarest subspecies of gray wolf, also known as “el lobo,” is doing what wolves have always done in their native territories: they hunt and eat animals weakened by misfortune, time and nature itself. But ranchers who sell their cows, sometimes for $1200-$1500 per animal, aren’t happy when someone’s future hamburger becomes a wolf’s dinner.
Even though the government will compensate ranchers for cows killed by wolves, a new survey reveals most cattle farmers feel el lobo’s reintroduction into the area is a threat to ranching – and their livelihoods.
“[Ranchers] realize that [wolves are] there and they’re there to stay now,” Jerome Rosa, Executive Director of the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association, which funded the survey, told EnviroNews in a phone interview. “They just have to do the best they can to try and manage the situation and try to do what they can to be able to live, you know, cohesively. But if they had a preference, [absolutely they] would like to not have that apex predator out there.”
Back From the Brink of Extinction
When Rosa said, “out there,” he is referring to the southwestern United States – part of the Mexican wolf’s indigenous turf. Early in the 1900s when the livestock industry began booming, the federal government hired trappers to eradicate all wolves – and they were nearly successful in that task with el lobo.
“This genetically [and] morphologically unique animal came about as close to extinction as any creature can get without actually going over the brink,” Michael Robinson, a senior conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, told EnviroNews.
And how close is “close?” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) official Stephen Guertin told a congressional subcommittee “the Mexican wolf was all but eliminated from the wild by the 1970s due to extensive predator control initiatives.” According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s (AGFD) website, Mexican wolves had once disappeared completely from Arizona and New Mexico.
But when the Endangered Species Act (ESA/the Act) passed in 1973, these critters finally received some appreciation. USFWS hired trappers again — this time to capture live wolves that could still be found in Mexico, in an effort to save the species from total annihilation. The agency was only able to find and capture five wild wolves; four males and one female. With time running out, USFWS took those specimens and launched a captive breeding program.
In 1998 el lobo caught a break and received an invitation to return home to the Southwest and 11 were released into the Blue Range Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Area in Arizona.
“They’re part of the natural ecosystem,” Robinson said. “They’re a beautiful, intelligent social animal that helps maintain balance, and they deserve to be there.”
Mexican Gray Wolf (Canis lupus baileyi)
The USFWS’ website hails the breeding program as a victory: “Missing from the landscape for more than 30 years, the howl of the Mexican wolf can once again be heard in the mountains of the southwestern United States.” Despite the agency’s victory dance, ranchers certainly were not out holding “welcome home” signs. The conflict zone reemerged — as did the wolf killings.
Money Can’t Buy Wolves Love
To help ease concerns, ranchers have been compensated for depredations since the wolves were first reintroduced in 1998 and in 2015 the State of Arizona Livestock Loss Board was formed. Ranchers can submit claims to the board for depredations when they can prove Mexican wolves most likely killed their animals. According to the agency’s most recent annual report ranchers have been paid more than $143,000 over the last few years.
But Rosa told EnviroNews these reimbursements still can’t buy the wolves love. He said the number of cattle they kill exceeds what ranchers claim as a loss:
Some [ranchers] just don’t want to deal with the red tape. They don’t want to deal with the paperwork. Or, when they find these carcasses, they’re too far gone. And remember: these cattle are out there in these vast, vast landscapes in really, really rugged terrain, and so often, when they do find a depredation, there’s nothing there to investigate. You know, there’s not enough to be able to prove it was a depredation. So, [ranchers] just don’t say anything. It’s like, “Well, you know, we took a hit on that.”
Rosa added that there’s no way for cattlemen to calculate losses for livestock that die from exhaustion and dehydration after being chased by wolves, or cows that get stressed out, thin, and don’t reproduce.
David Parsons, the wildlife biologist who led USFWS’ effort to reintroduce the Mexican wolf into the Southwest, told EnviroNews he’s heard those claims, but not the veracity of them. “Open range cattle die for many reasons other than predation or harassment by predators, such as weather extremes, disease, toxic plants, and even lightning strikes,” he refuted.
Hawk’s Nest Pack Released into Pre-Release Pen in 1998 — Photo: Dave Parsons
Parsons is now a science advisor for the conservation group Project Coyote. He said figuring out an exact cause of a cow’s death is arduous. “It would be very difficult to tease out the significance of mortality caused by predator harassment compared to all other causes of mortality.”
Natural Born Killers?
No one disputes that wolves are natural born killers. But Rosa claimed there are far more wolves out there than official counts reflect. “As the wolf populations increase, the cattle populations will decrease. I think that’s tragic,” he said.
Rosa added the more the packs grow, the more food they will need. “And unfortunately, the realism of wolves is they don’t just kill when they’re hungry. They kill for sport,” he said. “That’s what they do. You know, they are… that’s what they do. I mean, they’re killers.” But many experts dispute that and say wolves do not kill for the fun of it.
Greta Anderson — Deputy Director, Western Watersheds Project
“They kill to eat,” Greta Anderson, Deputy Director of the Western Watersheds Project told EnviroNews. “When humans find animals that have been killed by wolves but are uneaten, they should assume the carcasses haven’t been consumed yet, as animals will routinely return to kill sites and continue to feed off a carcass as long as they can.”
Regarding the numbers of wolves, federal and state officials have boots on the ground, the AGFD even pays five full-time biologists to help manage and tabulate the numbers. Currently, there’s a minimum of 76 Mexican gray wolves in the state and about 163 total in the Southwest. So, even after over two decades of “recovery” in the wild, the current number of lobos is far from the estimated 3000-4000 that roamed the U.S. in the early 1900s.
Currently, wolf tracking is done in many ways: about half the estimated population wears radio collars, others are counted on the ground, in the air, and even by conducting howl surveys where biologists listen for wolves return howls.
“I don’t think the cattle growers have a basis for contending that the numbers are substantially higher than announced,” Robinson said. “If there were significantly more wolves on the landscape than the interagency field team now contends, wouldn’t those wolves be breeding with each other, and wouldn’t their numbers grow to the point that their presences couldn’t be denied by anyone?”
Wolf Depredation Prevention
What about just deploying measures to keep wolves away from cows, so fewer end up getting eaten? According to the cattle association’s survey, some feel “spending on preventative practices can be large relative to returns.” And ranchers’ willingness to pay to avoid depredations may be an area they’ll study in the future.
Jerome Rosa — Executive Director, Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association
Rosa said prevention can be challenging, expensive and more assistance is welcome, adding, “I think the ranchers would like to have all the available tools in their toolbox to be able to manage the situation.”
But in addition to reimbursements for depredations, there’s also money out there to help ranchers pay for prevention. One example: the State of Arizona Livestock Loss Board slated $110,000 to develop effective methods of preventing wolf and cattle interactions.
At present, preventative tools like tracking collars, that help to alert ranchers when wolves are in the area, are being used along with blinking lights, electric fences, and range riders. The downside, Rosa said, is that batteries burn out, and some prevention is burdensome.
“All of these non-lethal measures just work for a short period of time,” he contended. “These wolves are extremely, extremely intelligent, and they get immune to those systems, and so then you constantly have to be changing.”
Mexican Wolf With Radio Collar — Photo: Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team
One solution Rosa offered is to limit the wolf population to a “manageable number” and kill problem wolves. “In areas where we’re having problems, then we need to go to lethal take on those packs,” Rosa told EnviroNews.
“You mean kill the wolves?” EnviroNews reiterated for clarity. “Yes. Yes,” Rosa asserted. And sometimes ranchers ask for just that and the federal government obliges.
Mexican Gray Wolf — Photo: KTAR Pheonix
Experts tallied reports for EnviroNews and found that since Mexican wolves were reintroduced to the Southwest the feds have killed about 21 lobos. The most common reason was for livestock depredations.
Dave Parsons Conducts Health Check on Captive-Born Mexican Wolf Pup
Conservationists insist killing this already beleaguered species is not the answer. Instead, they say regulators should require ranchers to use more preventative measures and remove the remains of dead cattle immediately, so the scent doesn’t attract predators. Furthermore, they insist there’s plenty of money out there to help ranchers outsmart even the craftiest of wolves.
“The government has asked nothing of the ranchers — at least required nothing,” Robinson continued. “They have asked nicely at times, you know, ‘Would you mind doing this?’ And sometimes the answer is ‘yes’ and sometimes the answer is ‘no.’”
Parsons claimed some wolves are being killed in “cryptic poaching” — meaning poaching that goes undetected. “Uncollared wolves killed in remote areas are rarely discovered by agency biologists, and the same is true for collared wolves when the poacher immediately disables the collar,” he added.
What’s at Stake?
Rosa told EnviroNews that if something isn’t done to curb Mexican wolf numbers, more ranchers will hang up their hats. Fewer cattle, he said, means less meat at the grocery store and more wildfires because ungrazed pastures provide fuel for flames to spread. “Killing wolves will allow [for] cattle, [and for] more people to be able to continue having cattle, out there to graze these spots,” he asserted.
Mexican Wolf — Photo: Columbus Zoo
But in addition to the many tangible issues, palpable on the ground between ranchers and conservationists, the more esoteric factor of global warming looms. Scientists say the rising trend of massive wildfires in the West is fueled in part by methane emissions from livestock and the agricultural sector at large.
Robinson told EnviroNews responsible, proactive ranchers should tap into the resources available to help keep afloat, but pulled no punches when emphasizing the free marketplace should determine the better mousetrap:
As for whether ranchers will go out of business due to depredations in the absence of wolf killing, that very much depends. Not all business ventures in the United States are destined to succeed, even when subsidized. The fact that some ranchers refuse to take measures to protect their stock would seem to make them less likely to stay in business.
Parsons agreed. “If a heavily subsidized livestock production business cannot afford to protect its primary asset (cows) by methods such as confining cows to pens for calving and hiring range riders to monitor and control their whereabouts on the landscape, then perhaps it is not a viable or appropriate business enterprise,” he said.
This Land is Not Your Land
Finally, EnviroNews asked Rosa, “Do you see the Mexican wolf as a vital part of the ecosystem? Should the species be there [at all]?” His answer: Nope. He concluded:
I don’t see it as a vital part. It wasn’t here for many, many years after they had been hunted down in the past. Now, some will say, “OK, they take care of, you know, sick animals, they’ll put them down.” They’re non-discriminatory. So, they’re not just taking [out] the weakness of a species. They take these animals down just for sport. I mean, it’s just what they do. And so, I understand, you know, the wolf advocates reasoning that they use — that they try to use. But, [it’s] not logical, and it’s not realistic. But, you know, I understand that that’s their position.
That’s something that enrages conservationists who say the wolves aren’t into sport killing and were there first. “The livestock industry has sought to transform the entire ecosystem of the Southwest… they see the wolves as the worst part of the ecosystem that they want to eliminate,” Robinson said.
Mexican Gray Wolf (Canis lupus baileyi)
So, the 100-year war between ranchers, cattle, wolves, conservationists and government agencies continues. Many battles ensue, no side declares any winners, but all have the instinct to keep fighting.
OTHER GREAT REPORTS ABOUT MEXICAN WOLVES FROM ENVIRONEWS
The coastal wolves have an extraordinary ability to swim across miles between islands.
Sea wolves are a unique breed of wolf found in the Great Bear Rainforest along the Pacific Coast of Canada. Swimming between islands like fish, they are genetically distinct from their inland cousins, or from wolves in any other part of the world.
British Columbia has a relatively low human population where sea wolves enjoy an isolated wilderness – an area of 21-million acres, often described as a “bastion of biodiversity”. There are 25 native species of conifers and grizzly bears, black bears and spirit bears living together.
In the water, whales, sea lions, seals, seabirds and salmon make the sea extraordinarily richer than anywhere else along the coast.
For thousands of years, wolves have lived in peace. They had a unique relationship with the coastal First Nations peoples, for whom the wolf was considered as a revered animal treated with admiration and respect.
However, they’re being threatened on all sides by hunting, trapping and industry. Road building and clear cut logging have appeared to be harmful to wolves, not only destroying the forests they live in but making it easier for hunters to gain access to coast wolves.
The Northern Gateway Pipelines project is a new threat. Huge oil tankers will transport oil in this pristine region with the potential for devastating consequences. If an oil tanker ran aground, spilling its content or sinking, it will have long-term harmful impacts on the environment similar as the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska.
Chris Darimont from the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, developed the Rainforest Wolf Project in order to show these wolves as fragile symbols and gain scientific understanding about coastal wolves called “Canada’s newest marine mammal”.
In the early 2000s, devoted nature photographer and conservationist Ian McAllister, and Canadian wolf biologist Paul Paquet started to conduct research about these coast mainland wolves eating salmon from the wild grey Pacific Ocean. They discovered a remarkable fact that locals already knew: 25 percent of the wolves’ diet was made of fish. Most extraordinary is the coastal wolves’ swimming ability, often swimming across miles between islands.
These photos are part of a magnificent series from a book entitled “The Sea Wolves, Living Wild in the Great Bear Rainforest”, created by authors Ian Mc Allister and Nicholas Read. The book reveals the importance of preserving the Great Bear Rainforest for every unique creature that lives on the British Columbia’s remote coast.
The Mexican gray wolf is one of the most endangered mammals in North America; only 163 remain in the wild in the United States.
Despite numerous threats that menace this single, fragile population, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the very agency charged by federal law to recover endangered species, has been managing the wild population via egregious measures that undermine Mexican gray wolf recovery.
The Service’s current Mexican wolf 10(j) management rule:
increases allowable killing,
fails to provide adequate protection for the loss of genetically valuable wolves,
sets a scientifically unsound population cap of 300-325 wolves and allows the killing of any wolves beyond this arbitrary number,
arbitrarily prevents wolves from finding essential native habitat by restricting wolf dispersal north of Interstate 40,
and fails to consider the wild population as “essential” to the recovery of Mexican gray wolves in the wild.
A coalition of conservation groups filed suit to challenge the management provisions, and in 2018, a federal court ruled in their favor. The judge found that the 10(j) management rule further imperiled the species, and directed USFWS to revise the way it manages Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico.
Now is our opportunity to convince USFWS to comply with the court order and make the necessary management changes to ensure the long-term recovery of this unique wolf.
The USFWS is accepting public input on the proposed changes to the 10(j) Management Rule – Comments must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. ET on June 15, 2020.
Consider using additional talking points to guide your comments, but please personalize your message. Nothing is as effective as speaking from the heart.Talking Points
The Wolf Conservation Center will submit all written comments via the federal register. Your confirmation email will also include a copy of your comments and guidance on how to submit them yourself.
United States Fish & Wildlife Service
Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2020-0007 – Revise Mexican gray wolf management to ensure recovery
Dear [Decision Maker],
As a lifelong supporter of Endangered Species Act (ESA) and someone who cares deeply for our nation’s wildlife, I’m writing to ask you to revise the 10(j) rule governing the management of endangered Mexican gray wolves to provide for the long-term survival of this unique species.
The Mexican gray wolf is one of the most endangered mammals in North America; only 163 remain in the wild in the United States.
A federal court rejected several provisions of the current Mexican wolf 10(j) management rule for failing to further the conservation of the Mexican wolf, and ruled that imposing these measures would be a violation of the ESA.
The judge particularly faulted the 10(j) rule for its:
– failure to consider the only wild Mexican gray wolf population as “essential” to the recovery of the species
– scientifically unsound population cap of 300-325 wolves, and allowing the killing of any wolves beyond this arbitrary number
– relaxed rules on the killing of Mexican wolves due to livestock conflicts or impacts on their natural prey
– failure to provide adequate protection for the loss of genetically valuable wolves
– arbitrary boundary restricting wolf dispersal north of Interstate 40
The management of this endangered gray wolf subspecies must follow the law and the science on Mexican wolf recovery. Please incorporate the following elements into the final rule to ensure Mexican gray wolf recovery.
* Personalize your message ESSENTIAL DESIGNATION Mexican gray wolves need greater protection under the Endangered Species Act with a designation of “essential” for the wild population. GEOGRAPHIC BOUNDARIES The new rule must eliminate artificial boundaries that prevent dispersal. The Mexican Wolf Recovery Team’s Science and Planning Subgroup (SPS), scientists appointed by USFWS for their recognized expertise in scientific disciplines relevant to Mexican wolf recovery, emphasize that the Mexican gray wolf’s long-term survival requires connected habitats north of the Interstate 40, including the Grand Canyon region and portions of southern Utah and Colorado. POPULATION CAP The new rule must not include a population cap. Scientists recommend a minimum of three, naturally connected sub-populations of at least 200 individuals each, collectively comprising a meta-population of at least 750 wolves in the US Southwest. WOLF REMOVAL ORDERS Every Mexican gray wolf on the ground is essential. Lethal control must be restricted to cases in which they pose a likely threat to human health or safety. The new rule must also include higher thresholds for initiating wolf removals. Wolves must not be removed from the wild for their predation on wildlife such as elk or deer. Public land grazing permittees must practice basic animal husbandry and remove livestock carcasses or render the carcasses inedible to prevent savaging by wolves. If livestock carcasses on public land attract wolves who subsequently prey on livestock in the vicinity, those wolves shall not be removed from the wild. Public land grazing permittees must also be required to take non-lethal measures to prevent conflicts to protect livestock. If wolves prey on livestock when the permittee is cognizant of the nearby presence of wolves but fails to take measures to protect the livestock, wolves shall not be removed from the wild. Any permittee found guilty of the illegal killing or injuring of a Mexican wolf shall have their livestock grazing permits revoked. GENETIC HEALTH Mexican wolf’s genetic imperilment requires an active program of releasing more genetically diverse wolves into the wild to capitalize on the remaining genetic potential available in the captive population. While we applaud the agency’s dedication to cross-fostering, this should not be the only strategy used to increase genetic diversity in the wild population. Given the severity of the wild Mexican gray wolf population’s genetic crisis, USFWS should also resume releasing pair-bonded adult male and female Mexican gray wolves with pups into the wild — the means by which reintroduction was initiated in 1998 and successfully undertaken until abandoned under political pressure in 2007. The final rule should also include a “Replacement Release Objective”, which would allow USFWS to release wolves from the captive breeding population into the existing wild wolf population to replace wolves that have been removed from the wild population due to illegal killings or mortality caused by USFWS management activity. Replacement wolves from the more genetically diverse captive population would maximize genetic diversity of the wild wolf population. BEST AVAILABLE SCIENCE Lastly, the new rule must contain provisions based on the best available science. The judge particularly faulted government officials for disregarding the advice of expert scientists who warned that the new management rule would hinder the Mexican wolf’s recovery.
The new management rule must follow the law and the science on Mexican gray wolf recovery. Now is our opportunity right our wrongs from the past by taking the necessary steps to ensure the long-term recovery of this unique and essential species.
WOLF CONSERVATION CENTER
7 Buck Run, South Salem, NY 10590 Mailing address: P.O. Box 421 South Salem, NY 10590 Phone: 914-763-2373
FILE – This Jan. 30, 2020, file photo, shows members of the Mexican gray wolf recovery team preparing to load a wolf into a helicopter in Reserve, N.M., so it can be released after being processed during an annual survey. One Mexican gray wolf died after being caught in a trap in April and another was found dead in the wild, bringing the total to more than a dozen of the endangered predators that have died so far this year in New Mexico and Arizona. Environmentalists say a combination of lethal management by U.S. wildlife officials and private trapping is making it difficult to recover the species. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan, File)
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — One Mexican gray wolf died after being caught in a trap in April and another was found dead in the wild, bringing the total to more than a dozen of the endangered predators that died in the first four months of the year in New Mexico and Arizona.
Environmentalists say a combination of lethal management by U.S. wildlife officials and private trapping is making it difficult to recover the species.
But ranchers say they face constant pressure from the wolves, pointing to the more than two dozen cattle that were killed just last month.
The latest wolf and livestock deaths come as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service begins wading through the process of revamping a rule that guides management of wolves in the Southwest.
The public has until June 15 to comment on the issues to be considered by officials. So far, nearly 800 comments have been submitted.
Some say it’s shaping up to be a deadly year for the wolf following an encouraging survey that found more wolves in the wild last year than at any time since efforts began more than two decades ago to reintroduce wolves along the New Mexico-Arizona border.
At least 163 wolves were counted during the survey that wrapped up in February. That marks a nearly 25% jump in the population from the previous year and puts wildlife managers about halfway to meeting the goal set for declaring the species recovered.
Monthly reports show 10 wolves have died in the first four months of 2020. That doesn’t include the alpha female of the Prieto Pack of wolves in New Mexico that died after being trapped in late April and four others that were killed in March due to livestock issues.
“It demonstrates the vagaries of the program and how quickly things can turn bad for the wolves,” Bryan Bird, the southwest program director for Defenders of Wildlife, said Tuesday.
He said changes to the management rule now under revision could address these ups and downs by limiting the circumstances in which wolves can be lethally or non-lethally removed from the wild and addressing trapping on public lands in the wolf recovery area.
Michael Robinson with the Center for Biological Diversity said one problem that has been ongoing for years is the wolves feeding on live cattle after being drawn in by the carcasses of cows that die from other causes. He’s among those who have been pushing for a requirement for ranchers to remove carcasses as one way to avoid conflict.
“Though the feds claim they’re looking at the population as a whole, this recurring mismanagement is precisely why the Mexican wolf is in worse genetic shape now than when reintroduction began more than two decades ago,” he said.
Some ranchers say they have tried everything from hiring cowboys on horseback to installing flagging and other devices to scare away the wolves. But they are still having problems.
Last year marked a record year for livestock kills. Several dozen kills have been reported so far this year.
The Arizona House last week passed a Senate-approved measure that would allow a board set up to reimburse ranchers for livestock losses to also compensate ranchers for things like range riders to keep wolves away from their herds.The measure now goes to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey for his consideration.
Federal officials say they conducted 24 days of hazing efforts in April, removed two carcasses, set up several food caches in hopes of diverting the wolves and talked with dozens of ranchers via phone, text and email in an effort to reduce the conflicts.
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