Wolf Weekly Wrap-up

Wolf tracks– none were found near the dead cow allegedly killed by a wolf.

Cow dies of natural causes (this is news?) — Sometimes a dead cow is just a dead cow. That’s the assessment from expert livestock investigator Carter Niemeyer, former Montana trapper and retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wolf recovery coordinator for Idaho. Niemeyer and Defenders wolf expert Suzanne Stone traveled to the site of a suspected wolf kill not far from Boise, Idaho to get video footage for an upcoming training workshop on identifying livestock losses to wolves. The story of the dead cow got top billing on local TV stations last week after USDA’s Wildlife Services confirmed it as a wolf kill. Todd Grimm, acting director of the Idaho office, went so far as to warn local residents to keep pets inside, and helicopters took to the sky in order to hunt down the implicated wolves.

However, after thorough inspection, Niemeyer determined that the cow had not been attacked by wolves at all (see the follow-up interview here). With more than 25 years of looking at livestock depredations, Niemeyer saw none of the tell-tale signs of a wolf predation, including no sign of wolf tracks in the dirt road leading up to the site. (Read his full report of the investigation here.) Inaccurate reports and an eagerness to blame wolves continue to be used to foment wolf hysteria, even though wolves pose very little risk to livestock.

Legislative clashes — Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch reintroduced his bad wolf bill from last session this week, proposing to permanently remove Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves across the country. “Gray wolves are no longer endangered,” said Hatch in a story reported by the Bellingham Herald. “Their numbers have rebounded to the point that they are now posing a significant threat to wildlife and livestock in Utah and other Western states.” That’s pretty strange considering there are no documented wolves in Utah.

Fortunately, Senate leaders on the Environment and Public Works committee quickly spoke out against the attempt to eliminate wolves and undermine the ESA. Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Ben Cardin of Maryland issued a joint statement opposing the effort:

“Legislation introduced today that completely and irreversibly removes the gray wolf from the list of threatened and endangered species sets a dangerous precedent that undermines the Endangered Species Act and threatens the continued existence of the gray wolf across this country.”

Most Americans care very deeply about our nation’s wildlife and want to see all animals protected from needless persecution.

Defenders’ president, Rodger Schlickeisen added that most Americans “care very deeply about our nation’s wildlife and want to see all animals protected from needless persecution.”

“These bills would sacrifice wildlife belonging to all Americans just because a small minority of people don’t like wolves,” he said. (See full press release)

Meanwhile, Montana Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester called on Interior Secretary Salazar to convene the leaders of Western states to work out a plan to return wolf management authority to the states. They pointed to the election of Wyoming Governor Matt Mead as a chance to start negotiations afresh.

Gaining ground – Good news! Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has identified three wolves living in the northern Umatilla County in eastern Oregon. Lone wolves have ventured into the area before, but this is believed to be the first group to start showing up regularly and could constitute a new pack. This brings the total number of wolves in Oregon to 24, with two confirmed breeding packs.

Numbers are up in the Southwest as well. The results of the annual Mexican wolf count were released this week, indicating there are now a minimum of 50 wolves living in Arizona and New Mexico, up from 42 wolves a year ago. The total includes 14 pups that had survived through the end of the year.