Wolf Weekly Wrap-up

0462_wenaha_male_wolfwm copyWolf numbers down in Idaho and  Montana – Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks announced yesterday that the state’s wolf population declined about 4 percent since last year’s count. A minimum of 625 wolves were tallied at the end of 2012 compared to 653 in 2011. The drop resulted from expanded hunting and the addition of trapping, and the state has already taken measures to increase wolf-killing efforts again next year. In Idaho, the population has declined twice as much. Idaho Fish & Game announced this week that they counted at least 680 wolves on the landscape at the end of 2012, down from 746 at the end of 2011. While these numbers aren’t as low as we had feared, given that more than 1,000 wolves have been killed in the last two years by hunters and trappers, it’s still troubling to see these states continuing to try to drive the population down.

Elk hunting trumps wolf recovery in Idaho – For years, anti-wolf extremists have been complaining that wolves are “decimating” elk herds. Yet recent actions by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission suggest otherwise. At their meeting in Boise this week, the commission approved new regulations to sell 2,300 more elk tags for next year (see details here). If elk are doing so well that hunters are being allowed to kill more of them, then shouldn’t wolves get a break? But, of course, that’s the point. The state has always been more concerned about maximizing elk hunting revenue than maintaining a sustainable wolf population. Wildlife managers are trying to micromanage both predator and prey populations instead of letting nature take its course. By suppressing predator populations, the entire ecosystem ultimately suffers.

Elk are doing very well in Idaho. So why not leave wolves alone?

Elk are doing very well in Idaho. So why not leave wolves alone?

The commission also decided to expand wolf hunting and trapping seasons across many parts of the state, but at least they seemed to be listening more closely to the concerns of wolf advocates. Wolf advocates outnumbered the anti-wolfers three to one at the meeting and gave insightful comments about ways to improve state wolf management. Our local representative Suzanne Stone spoke to the commission about the success of Defenders’ Wood River Wolf Project. The project area is the only place in Idaho with a heavy concentration of both sheep and wolves with almost no losses of either one. (See map of confirmed livestock losses. The Wood River Wolf Project is in the “Southern Mountains” zone.)

“If you truly want to reduce livestock losses, it’s more effective to take advantage of nonlethal deterrents like the fencing, lights, carcass removal, and other methods than rely on haphazardly killing wolves and breaking apart packs.” — Suzanne Stone

A few local vets expressed outrage at dogs being caught and injured or killed in traps and snares designed to capture wolves. Other wolf supporters talked about their concern over the declining wolf numbers complaining that wolves were being again persecuted and not responsibly managed.   Another resident spoke of her own personal sense of loss when the pack she enjoyed seeing and hearing near her cabin was wiped out by hunters.

Thanks to all of you for speaking up for wolves!

No wolves, big bucks – There was no stopping the Utah legislature from approving a sweet $300,000 handout to lobbyists with anti-predator groups Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife and Big Game Forever, but we haven’t given up yet. We’re asking Utah Gov. Gary Herbert to veto this wasteful gift to special interests politics to fight imaginary wolves.

Read the latest editorial from the Salt Lake Tribune explaining what’s really behind the deal. Hint: it’s green and features some of America’s most celebrated dead white guys. A few snippets:

Consider a 2010 Utah Wildlife Board meeting when SFW president Byron Bateman presented then-DWR director Jim Karpowitz with a check for $391,000 moments before the Wildlife Board passed a controversial proposal largely crafted and promoted by SFW to reduce the number of deer-hunting permits by at least 13,000.

SFW and its officers also donate money freely to dozens of politicians.

One of the recipients was State Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, who received $6,500 in campaign contributions from Peay and Ryan Benson, co-founder of Big Game Forever. Okerlund, the Senate majority leader, recommended spending $300,000 this year on Big Game Forever’s anti-wolf lobbying campaign.

While SFW and its many subsidiaries might do some good for wildlife, those who donate thinking they are helping big game should realize that many of these groups’ officers have a heavy financial stake in the operation. And the continued commercialization of the public’s wildlife should cause concern that herds are being managed not on the basis of sound biology but in ways to produce more cash.

— Tom Wharton, Salt Lake Tribune, March 18, 2013

Bad wolf bills still lurking – While Idaho’s legislature should be going home today (thankfully), several anti-wolf bills are making the rounds in Washington and Montana.

Wolf sign

Some state legislators just don’t like wolves.

In Washington, Senate Bill 5187  would eliminate vital protections for wolves while they are still endangered by allowing anyone to kill them without a permit based on perceived threats to livestock or any domestic animal, “across all lands, public and private.” Not only would ranchers make that determination on their own with absolutely no accountability, but they also wouldn’t be required to take any nonlethal steps to reduce conflict or protect their livestock. If this bill passes we can expect more dead wolves in eastern Washington, where some ranchers have been all too eager to have wolves killed.

By supporting this bill, the state is undermining its own wolf conservation plan, which represents years of stakeholder negotiations and public input from more than 65,000 residents.  Wolves have killed fewer than 10 head of livestock in the whole state in the last year.  We can’t let propaganda override good science and a good faith compromise made by the stakeholders who helped develop this balanced and comprehensive plan. Washington residents, don’t miss this call to action! Please click here to submit a comment opposing the bill.

In Montana, Senate Bill 200 would allow wolves to be killed if they are deemed a “potential” threat to human safety, livestock or dogs. The use of the word “potential” leaves assessment of conflict scenarios open to broad interpretation. Inevitably, this will allow for the unnecessary killing of wolves in situations where wolves are not actually posing a threat. Senate Bill 397 would allow provisional hunting and trapping of predators in elk hunting zones where elk populations are under objective. The law would expand hunting and trapping of wolves, black bears and mountain lions until elk numbers improve for two consecutive years. This includes allowing the use of neck snares to kill wolves, and the use of baiting and hound hunting to kill bears. Simply killing off more predators ignores the influence of weather patterns, hunting pressure, fire suppression, and development. All of these factors have a huge impact on habitat quality and availability and, thus, the number of elk the land can support. The proposal reflects both an anti-predator bias and a serious misunderstanding of wildlife management and ecosystem health.