By John Motsinger
WDFW wipes out Wedge Pack – The hunt is over, and tragically the Wedge Pack is no more. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced yesterday that they have completed their mission by removing a total of six wolves this week, including the alpha male and female. (See their FAQ for more details.) If there are any wolves left, they might be wise to heed the advice of the Seattle Times editorial board and seek refuge north of the Canadian border.
With the conclusion of this sad chapter, we must redouble our efforts to work with the state and local ranchers to make sure this scenario does not play out again next year. But it won’t be easy. Watch this report from NBC affiliate King5-Seattle to see what we’re up against:
Dog killed in attempted wolf poisoning – It’s one thing for wolf opponents to complain about the return of a native predator to landscape; everyone’s entitled to an opinion. But it crosses a serious line when anti-wolf sentiment results in illegal actions that harm people or their pets. That’s why Defenders is working with local partners to offer a reward for information leading to the conviction of parties responsible for poisoning two dogs in Blaine County, Idaho. Both animals had ingested chunks of meat which had been laced with an artificial sweetener known to be toxic to wolves. One dog died as a result, while the other survived after vomiting was induced at a local animal shelter. The county sheriff believes the poisoning was intentional, and many believe wolves were the intended target, not the dogs.
Blaine County, home of Defenders Wood River Wolf Project, has generally been very supportive of wolf recovery. The enthusiasm of many community members is what propelled the Phantom Hill pack to national prominence several years ago, and interest in wolf recovery has remained high ever since. Further, the willingness of open-minded sheep ranchers in the area has been instrumental in demonstrating the effectiveness of nonlethal deterrents as a method of preventing conflict between wolves and livestock. But clearly, we still have work to do to promote tolerance and help educate local residents about the value of having wolves.
Trigger (un)happy – Just two years ago, wolves across the entire lower 48 were federally protected under the Endangered Species Act. But this fall, five states will allow hunting of the recently delisted species. More than 500 wolves were killed in Idaho and Montana during the last season, and now wolves in Wyoming, Wisconsin and Minnesota will be in hunters’ sights as well. In addition to regulated hunting, starting this Sunday Wyoming is set to declare open season on wolves in the “predator zone” that encompasses about 85 percent of the state. Any wolves found in this area can be killed anytime by almost any means.
While we don’t oppose legitimate fair-chase hunting outright, we do think many of these states have been much too quick to cull so many wolves unnecessarily. We also agree with the authors of this great editorial in the Chicago Tribune that Congress should “lengthen the distance from endangered species to ready, aim, fire.”
“In the last century, Americans nearly exterminated one of its most ecologically valuable and majestic creatures. Ours will be a tamer, poorer nation if this century continues the slaughter.” – Chicago Tribune editorial, Sept. 23, 2012
Northern gateway to Yellowstone turns against wolves – Despite the protests of many conservation groups and concerned citizens, Gallatin County is moving forward with an aggressive predator plan that endorses getting rid of all but a small handful of wolves in the area. Nevermind that elk and deer herds are plentiful and that there have been zero livestock losses in recent years. The Commission has apparently succumbed to the fear-mongering of anti-wolf extremists, ignoring entirely all the positive benefits that wolves bring to the region.
Fortunately, the decision is mostly a token gesture since the state, not the county, is ultimately responsible for managing wolves. But it doesn’t bode well for the future of wildlife in what has typically been a pretty progressive part of the state. Gallatin County includes the city of Bozeman, home to many leading environmental organizations including Defenders’ Rocky Mountain office. It’s also the northern gateway to Yellowstone National Park, which draws thousands of tourists who spend millions of dollars every year to see native wildlife, including wolves.
Gallatin County commissioners should recognize that wolves are a boon to the environment as well as the bottom line the way their counterparts to the south have. Teton County, Wyoming, the southern gateway to Yellowstone and home of Jackson Wyoming, has embraced wildlife as their number one value and will likely benefit from Gallatin County’s misstep by attracting more wildlife tourists and businesses instead of thumbing their nose at them.