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Report: Wolf Conservation Hijacked by User Groups

States Prove Incapable of Managing Wolves, Montana to Consider Higher-Kill Quota

Denver, CO. Just as the Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks Commission will consider increasing its wolf hunting quota for the 2012-2013 season, WildEarth Guardians has released a report on Northern Rocky Mountain wolves that argues that two user groups, the livestock industry and some hunting organizations, caused decisionmakers to prematurely revoke federal protection for the population and it is now in jeopardy from high levels of hunting. The report describes the many negative biological, ecological, economic and social effects of wolf hunting and should be used to inform the current debate about wolf quotas.

“The livestock industry and some hunting groups pressured Congress to delist wolves based upon grossly inaccurate claims,” stated Wendy Keefover, Director of Carnivore Protection for WildEarth Guardians. “Now Montana’s decisionmakers are under their spell and willing to consider a longer, more deadly hunting and trapping season that could have even more devastating effects on wolves.”

Congress, in unprecedented action, legislatively delisted Northern Rockies wolves from the Endangered Species Act in spring 2011. Idaho and Montana commenced hunting seasons for wolves in late August and early September, respectively. The two states sold more than 62,000 wolf-hunting tags to hunters and trappers, most of whom were Idaho and Montana residents, who killed more than 500 wolves in eight months, eliminating more than a third of the bi-state population (estimated at fewer than 1,300 in 2010). Now Montana is considering lengthening its hunting season, increasing the statewide quota, and even allowing trapping for wolves (Idaho already allows trapping for the species). The Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks Commission will meet on May 10 in Helena, Montana, to review the policy changes.  

WildEarth Guardians’ report, “Northern Rocky Mountain Wolves: A Public Policy Process Failure, How Two Special Interest Groups Hijacked Wolf Conservation in America,” documents how the livestock industry and some hunting groups influenced key federal legislators to delist Northern Rockies wolves last spring, to the detriment of the wolf restoration and in opposition to majority public opinion. These vocal minorities claimed that wolves had recovered and that packs were depleting domestic livestock and elk herds, but none of these contentions are true. 

  • Years of government data show that wolves have a negligible effect on the domestic livestock inventory. , Wolves killed less than one percent of the cattle (0.07 percent) and sheep (0.22 percent) inventories in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming—before the commencement of the 2011-2012 wolf hunting season and even using unverified livestock loss data (that is, the numbers that are based upon livestock growers’ uninvestigated complaints of wolf depredation). Verified livestock losses are even lower.
  • Wolves also have little effect on elk herds in the Northern Rockies, while biologists have demonstrated how human hunters have a much greater impacts on elk populations than wolves. Moreover, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming all have abundant elk populations, with over 100,000 animals each, with each state managing its elk population “at” or “above” their own management objectives throughout most of their state.
  • Wolves had not even been recovered to even five percent of their historic range  in the West when they were delisted in the Northern Rockies and unsustainable levels of wolf hunting began in Idaho and Montana. Wyoming is also preparing to offer wolf hunting as soon as the federal government delists the species in that state.

The American public has spent $40 million dollars and two decades to restore wolves in the Northern Rockies. Now that effort is threatened because of misguided Congressional action based on mythical claims about the species.

Biologists note that hunting not only has direct effects on individuals, but also causes secondary mortality. Wolves, highly social beings, experience disruptions in their packs from hunting, which puts pups and yearlings at risk for starvation and death and can cause packs to disband.

The report recommends five ways to reduce wolf/human conflicts and to conserve wolf populations in the Northern Rockies, including restoring federal protection for  Northern Rocky wolves until local hostility towards wolves dissipates; designating more more protected areas for wolves, such as national parks;employing a host of non-lethal methods to protect domestic livestock from wolves; authorizing voluntarily grazing permit retirement on federal public lands; and prioritizing wolf-watching tourism which generates much higher revenue for the region than wolf hunting.

“The federal government and western states must act quickly to protect wolves for our environment, economy, and future generations, or they may end up right back on the endangered species list,” said Keefover.

View the Report: Northern Rocky Mountain Wolves


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