Wolf, © Richard Seeley / National Geographic Stock

Wolf Weekly Wrap-up

US Capitol, FWSCongressmen urge continued wolf protections in lower 48 – The federal government has given up on wolves in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes and turned management over to the states. But wolves in the rest of the country still need help if they’re ever going to recover. That’s why 52 congressmen signed a letter this week asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to maintain protections for wolves in the Northwest, southern Rockies and Northeast, where wolves have yet to reclaim important parts of their former range. Initiated by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the letter received broad support across the country, demonstrating that wolf conservation continues to have national significance. We also sounded the alert to our supporters, who answered in spades: more than 46,500 people contacted their representatives and encouraged them to sign on to this letter.

We hope the Fish and Wildlife Service will take this into consideration as it puts the finishing touches on its status review of wolves in the lower 48. Their job isn’t done. In places like Colorado, Utah, and California, wolves are struggling to gain a toehold and still need the benefit of Endangered Species Act protection to even have a chance of recovering.

fladry in Wallowa Valley Oregon

Defenders has helped Oregon ranchers in the Wallowa Valley install fladry to deter wolves.

Nonlethal methods help Oregon ranchers and wolves – Wolf management in Oregon has offered an interesting counterpoint to the widespread wolf-killing taking place in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Because of an ongoing legal dispute, Oregon wildlife managers have been prohibited from removing wolves, including members of the Imnaha pack that had been previously implicated in livestock depredations. As a result, Oregon ranchers have had to rely on nonlethal methods of protecting their livestock from wolves… and it has worked! The wolf population has steadily increased over the past two years while there have been virtually no livestock conflicts whatsoever. In Idaho the trend has been the opposite, with hundreds of wolves being killed while livestock losses have increased.

“The Idaho numbers show ‘you can’t manage wolves using conventional wisdom and assumption,’ said Suzanne Stone of Defenders of Wildlife in Idaho. ‘Using these old archaic methods of managing predators by just killing them is not working.’”

This just goes to show that a little nonlethal goes a long way, but only if ranchers actually use the tools they have available. As Ben Franklin once said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Read more in USA Today.

Hunting and trapping taking a toll on wildlife – No one knows exactly how many wolves are left in Montana, but a report from the Billings Gazette shows that at least 377 have been killed in the last 14 months. Here’s the tally:

  • Hunters – 128
  • Trappers – 97
  • Wildlife Services – 113
  • Ranchers – 7
  • Other – 32

There were an estimated 650 wolves in Montana at the end of 2011, but that number is likely to dip for 2012, according to the Gazette report. We’ll know for sure when Montana releases its official wolf count later this month.

A story in the Missoulian also shows that wolves aren’t the only animals getting caught in wolf traps. Last year Idaho trappers admitted to catching more non-target animals (147) than they did wolves (123). Deer, elk, moose, cougars, coyotes, skunks and ravens were among the victims of Idaho trappers, and at least 69 of those animals died as a result. And in Montana, at least 45 dogs were caught in traps this year, three of them set for wolves.