Montana approves aggressive wolf hunt – Despite a great turnout from wolf supporters at their meeting yesterday, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission approved more aggressive wolf hunting regulations for the upcoming season. Many Montanans expressed particular concern about the potential impacts of allowing widespread wolf trapping both at the meeting and during the official written comment period. The editorial board for the Missoulian called the proposal “cruel and unnecessary,” and Defenders has repeatedly brought attention to the risks to rare, non-target species such as lynx and wolverine that could easily get caught in a wolf trap. Yet the Commission ended up ignoring these comments all the same.
In the bigger picture, Montana’s decision amounts to an unwarranted escalation of their wolf-killing efforts in just the second year since delisting. The state appears to be myopically focused on driving wolf numbers down without legitimate justification, rather than maintaining the population currently on the ground. Some radical hunters and ranchers insist that a more aggressive hunt and fewer wolves will mean more elk and fewer livestock losses. But there’s no scientific evidence to show that’s the case. With fewer than 100 cattle lost to wolves in 2011 out of 2.5 million, it’s unclear that simply killing more wolves will make any difference anyway. We’d much rather see the state take a lead role in promoting nonlethal deterrents and better animal husbandry practices to prevent livestock losses before they occur.
Wood River Team springs into action – Our Wood River Wolf Project team had to spring into action last week when four sheep were lost to wolves near Ketchum, Idaho. This particular migrating band of more than 1,000 sheep had only one guard dog with it and no herder when the incident occurred, highlighting the importance of human vigilance. While a team of barking guard dogs can occasionally ward off a wolf attack, a lone dog does not provide much of a deterrent, especially if human help isn’t nearby. So to avoid any further losses, our team spent several nights following the band and staying with the sheep at night. They shined lights and fired cracker shells to warn off wolves and other native predators, while searching for sign of wolves during the day. By doing so, our project team was able to prevent further losses. The rancher also agreed to put more livestock guarding dogs out with his sheep and have his herders keep closer watch over their flocks. Unfortunately, a kill order has been issued for Wildlife Services to remove wolves in the area, but the rancher has rescinded his request and asked to put a collar on the wolf instead. Having a collar will help our field technicians track wolf movements so they can warn ranchers when wolves are near their sheep.
According to Suzanne Stone, the Wood River Wolf Project coordinator, while the situation wasn’t ideal, this incident shows how we can protect both sheep and wolves if ranchers and wildlife managers work cooperatively toward that goal. We also got some great publicity this week in Ag Weekly, thanks to Public News Service, with a story that highlights the expansion of the project this year countywide. Listen here:
Ranchers in Blaine County who are looking for help protecting their livestock from wolves and other wildlife can now call our new hotline at 1-8-555-WOLVES.
Idaho slouching toward open season – Wolves can now be hunted somewhere in Idaho any day of the year. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission decided last week to open wolf hunting on private land in the panhandle the day after the previous hunting season officially closed in two districts. This is just the latest in the state’s attempts to drive wolf numbers down toward the federal minimum requirement of 100 to 150 wolves per state. They already allow wolf hunting and trapping for most of the year statewide, and an individual will be able to kill up to 10 wolves per person this coming fall. If Idaho continues down this path, it won’t be long before they declare a year-round open season on wolves.
Rocky Mountain Director Mike Leahy told the Coeur d’Alene Press:
“No other native animal is intentionally driven down to such artificially low numbers, especially one that Americans have worked so hard to restore. Black bears and mountain lions aren’t hunted year-round even though there are far more of them, and wolves shouldn’t be either.”
Oregon wolves cover more ground – Oregon’s nascent wolf population continues to grow slow and steady with individual wolves showing up in places they haven’t been in nearly a century. The lone male wolf known as OR-7 has recently journeyed more than 100 miles south of the border, making it all the way to California’s Butte County for the first time. Meanwhile, according to the Confederated Umatilla Journal, OR-14 has become the first documented resident of the Umatilla Indian Reservation near Pendleton, Oregon. Wolves have been seen in the area before, but OR-14 is the first collared wolf that has actually been tracked and confirmed. The Umatilla tribe has already reached out to Defenders to learn about nonlethal wolf management, and we have helped their biologists deploy wildlife cameras to learn more about wolves in the area. They are thrilled to have wolves back on their land and intend to do what they can to help protect the animals.