Gov. Otter’s “Wolf Control Board” Passes House and Moves to Senate: Last Friday, state legislation establishing Gov. Otter’s “wolf control board” passed the Idaho House 49-16. The bill moved to the Senate early this week where it is currently being considered by the Resources and Environment Committee. The bill sponsors have repeatedly stated that their goal is to use this funding to drive Idaho’s wolf population down as low as 150 from a current population of 500 – 600 wolves. Defenders continues to explain to state officials that there are much more cost effective and non-lethal ways to manage wolves like some of the coexistence projects we’ve pioneered, including the Wood River Wolf Project in Idaho.
Suzanne Stone, Defenders wolf expert and Idaho resident, made the following statement on this issue: “Idaho House Bill 470 is a waste of state taxpayer funds. It’s just a pet project put forth by Governor Otter on behalf of anti-wolf extremists to eradicate most of the wolves in Idaho. If passed under its current provisions, this plan gives Governor Otter a green light to wipe out most of the wolves in the state, thrusting them perilously close to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s threshold for consideration of relisting under the Endangered Species Act.” Stay tuned for more; we’ll be watching this issue closely and will continue to work with our Idaho members to oppose it.
End of Year Count in Oregon Shows Gray Wolf Populations Remain Stable: The number of endangered gray wolves living in Oregon showed a slight increase from the previous year, according to the official winter count released this week by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). This year’s count tallied 64 wolves, an increase of 16 individuals from the 2012 year-end population including new packs now returning to their home range on Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla tribal lands. No doubt these stable numbers reflect Oregon’s effort to implement cost effective, long-term management strategies for wolves and Defenders believes Oregon has set a great example that other states should follow when implementing nonlethal management strategies. But while these numbers are a step in the right direction, this count also shows that wolves are still only just beginning to gain a foothold in Oregon, and that wolves have not yet dispersed in adequate numbers into other parts of Oregon with suitable wolf habitat. Population counts for other parts of the Northern Rockies are expected to be released in late March. Look for updates here in the coming weeks.
Harmful Legislation for Mexican Gray Wolves Come Closer to Becoming Law in Arizona: Earlier this month, we told you about Arizona’s legislative attack on Mexican gray wolves. And this week, three proposed bills came closer to becoming law in Arizona after they were passed in the state Senate and moved to the House for consideration. The first is a bill from Senator Gail Griffin that would allow Arizonans to trap and kill Mexican gray wolves in excess of what is allowed by federal law. The second bill appropriates $250,000 in state money so that the state can sue to block federal recovery efforts. The third is a resolution from Griffin that proclaims that the states should take over management of the Mexican gray wolf, that releases in the U.S. should cease, and that recovery should occur only in Mexico.
Of course this is counter to the scientific work demonstrating that not enough habitat or prey remains in Mexico to support a population big enough to save the Mexican gray wolf. It also ignores the duty of the Endangered Species Act to recover species in the U.S. There are currently only two wild Mexican wolves in Mexico, both released in the last year. We are hopeful that wolves will return to their former homes in both the U.S. and Mexico, but the misguided Arizona legislature would like to force the Mexican gray wolf, which once ranged north of Arizona and New Mexico, completely out of the U.S. In response to this direct assault on Arizona’s Mexican gray wolves, Defenders Southwest Program Director, Eva Sargent stated: “These state bills are a waste of taxpayer money and elected officials’ time. They are little more than a pathetic attempt to “cry wolf” and have no real relevance to either science, recovery or the desires of our citizens. They are an affront to the majority of Arizonans who want rational legislation that solves real problems, and to the majority that support wolf recovery.” If you are an Arizona resident, you can help the lobos by submitting letters to the editor and writing and calling your local representatives. More information here.
Judge Considering Red Wolf Court Case Requests More Information: You may recall that earlier this year, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission adopted a hunting rule in North Carolina that allows coyote hunting in red wolf habitat. Defenders and our coalition partners immediately filed a complaint in federal court against this rule because it poses a serious threat to red wolves.Red wolves look very similar to coyotes and the chance of a red wolf being mistaken for a coyote and shot by a hunter, especially at night, is dangerously high. This week, the federal judge considering the case requested more information before ruling on the lawsuit. Shooting of red wolves remains one of the largest threats to this imperiled population. In fact, nearly 30 percent of the red wolf population was killed by gunshot from 2000 to 2013, and only about 100 red wolves roam free in the wild today. We’ll keep you updated here as soon as we have more information.