Gray wolf, © Sandy Sisti

Wolf Advocates Across the West

Suzanne Stone, Northern Rockies Representative

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind for wolf advocates in the West. My colleagues and I have been traveling from city to city and state to state organizing wolf supporters to attend meetings set by state wildlife commissions and agencies. Some of these were set to vote on proposals  that could be particularly dangerous to wolves, while others opened up a broader conversation about wolf management. But for all of these meetings, it was important that people who care about the future of wolves in the region were in attendance to testify, to question, and to learn.

Boise, Idaho
On January 16, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission held a public hearing. There were many important issues on the docket, but we were most concerned about agenda item #6 – a measure to set aside $50,000 exclusively to have the federal government kill more wolves in order to boost elk numbers for hunters. We sounded the alarm to our members in the area, and they answered the call.  I met a group of them at a reception before the meeting, and we talked about the challenges that often come with advocating for wolves in an area where myth and misconceptions about these animals are still widely regarded as fact.

WolfThe hearing was amazing. The first hour of public testimony on agenda item #6 was nothing but 100% positive support for wolves.  In fact, everyone who spoke about this issue opposed the measure and supported more protection for wolves. Our members were respectful, eloquent and well-informed, and the commission was visibly blown away by their testimonies. When my turn came, I was able to focus on specific concerns with the measure, including the fact that the proposal could allow for the use of more controversial “management” practices, like aerial gunning. And the fact that lethal control fails to work in the long term – no matter what the reason for wanting more elk, killing wolves is not a solution. I spoke about our Wood River Wolf Project and its success in protecting 27,300 sheep living among three resident wolf packs with only one incident that resulted in the loss of 4 sheep. I asked them to use the $50,000 for nonlethal methods of preventing predation on livestock instead of just continuing this endless and wasteful cycle of loss and killing.

Sadly, when it came to the vote the following morning, the commission approved the proposal. Even though they heard that so many residents were staunchly against it, they still designated $50,000 for federal wolf killing.  Defenders is working to raise twice that amount to put toward protecting wolves and other wildlife in the region. Though the commission approved the proposal, I think our collective testimony surprised them. To have so many people willing to speak out on behalf of wolves here in Boise is unprecedented, and at a public hearing like this one, it showed the decision-makers that the people of Idaho care about how wolves are managed, and we’re watching their actions closely. The days of passing awful management proposals without public opposition is over.

Seattle, Washington
Later the same week, I set out for Seattle. After the fiasco with the Wedge Pack last summer, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is making an effort to keep the public better informed about their management methods. We let our members in the area know about this great opportunity to learn more about wolves in their state and to ask questions of the agency in charge of managing them.

The meeting was a bit of a challenge. First, the location of the meeting was moved, so we sent out an update. Then, the new location proved very difficult to find, so we posted signs along the road to point the way. Once WFDW arrived they quickly realized the space was far too small and moved the meeting to a warehouse across the street for the more than 300 people who attended! It was incredible to see so many people interested in wolves in a state that is still welcoming the species back to parts of its native range that have been wolf-free for over a century. Carter Niemeyer, retired wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was one of the key speakers and did a great job answering questions and providing an expert overview of the challenges and opportunities of restoring wolves in Washington.   Similar meetings took place in Spokane and Olympia, and we were able to have someone from Defenders attend each one.

We have some great supporters here in Idaho, out in Washington, and across the nation who are invested in the future of wolves in the U.S. Wolves are still looking at a tough year ahead, with premature hunting paring down their numbers, and dangerous legislation in most states in the region threatening to strip them of their remaining protections. But it’s encouraging to know that despite the misinformation out there about wolves, and the many industries and agencies interested in halting their recovery, there is still a growing number who want to see these majestic animals protected and restored to their rightful place in the ecosystem. We’re going to have to unite with other like-minded residents in the West and build a great network of activists who will work together to safeguard the future for wolves in the region.

71 Responses to “Wolf Advocates Across the West”

  1. Judith Mitchell

    Well, nice try, Ed Michaels — unfortunately, the record[s] show that 99.9% of politicians who support unwarranted killing of predator species ARE Republicans. It is true here in my adopted state (Maine), where (fortunately for the wolves) we have no viable wolf population, but across the board, it is the Republicans who are responsible for maintaining savage butchery against our coyote population. I have spoken with Democrats in the legislature about this. Republican actions regarding extirpation of predators are based upon ignorance and love of hunting “prey animals” no matter how that upsets the balance of life.
    If you can give me the names of half-a-dozen Republican legislators who are NOT in favor of wolf-killing, in states that have/had stable wolf populations, I will recant. The ball is in your court.
    Pointing the finger at political figures does not destroy Carmen Winter’s credibility for me.

  2. Judith Mitchell

    GO, CRAIG!!! — I will join any boycott I hear about. We have pretty much given up consumption of “livestock” (e.g., animal) products anyway and use local wood sources for heat. If enough citizens act like you and also, vote these ignorant politicians out of office — maybe wolves, wolverines, bears, coyotes, et.al, will have a far better chance at re-establishing their places in the natural scheme of life’s circle. I absolutely applaud you!

  3. Judith Mitchell

    “In the beginning of all things, wisdom and knowledge were with the animals, for Tirawa, the One Above, did not speak directly to man. He sent certain animals to tell men that he showed himself through the beast, and that from them, and from the stars and the sun and moon should man learn.. all things tell of Tirawa.”

    -Eagle Chief (Letakos-Lesa) Pawnee

  4. Priscilla

    Loved the article, but I have to agree with Marsha’s comments. Idaho heard from loads of advocates and still refused to address the real issues of a balanced wilderness. Political or not, “Idaho is just not smart enough for more than potatos.” Since most issues that come up for a vote are politically influenced, we shouldn’t be surprised when we sometimes fail. I suggest that all who look for a tangible way to help write their own letters – paper is good, but so are e-mails – to the powers that be in their own states first, other states (like Idaho) next, and federal government entities last. Petitions are always good, but they usually send a single message with many signatures. Personalized messages pack much more meaning, especially to politicians. I’ve even had some replies – and promptly – offering varying levels of support. I wish all of you success in your personal appeals and certainly our wild brothers on the mountains.

  5. Juliet B

    It’s absolutely true that Republicans tend to be more anti-wolf than Democrats; Idaho, for example, is obviously a very conservative state where many of the politicians and people hate wolves. That aside, however, I definitely think that rather than voting along party lines alone, we should try to support candidates who show an ability to be reasonable, humane, and willing to listen to actual facts rather than outdated myths/preconceptions.

  6. Frank Wolf, PhD

    Hi folks, it is great to hear such support, such impassioned support, for protecting wild wolves. A great deal of my life has been spent studying the wolf and its place as keystone predator, it’s vital importance to the overall vitality of every ecosystem it inhabits, and the loss of such vitality with the wolf’s absence. However, until you have faced, and faced-off against those who hunt the wolf you have no real understanding the depth of enmity such people possess. Perhaps a partial quote from one Idaho hunter I met in a bar one night might better acquaint you with the mentality we are up against:

    I don’t care about the law, I love to kill things. I don’t care about species conservation, I love to kill things. I don’t give a damn about you or your opinion, I love to kill things, especially when I make money from selling their fur, teeth, paws, tail, skull. At heart I am a savage beast, and proud of it, I love to kill things. I love the sound of the high powered rifle, and its feel impacting my shoulder almost as much as I love the sight of the slug impacting the wolf, splattering its blood all over the area. It’s better than sex for me, I love to kill things. I’ve been raised by killers, my dad loved to kill things and so did his brothers and all their friends, I love to kill, I live to kill, and there’s no better kill than to kill a defenseless wolf, from hundreds of yards away with a weapon he has no defense against; God all mighty, that makes me feel like a real man! Just let me get a wolf-lover alone up in the forest and I’d put him in my cross hairs, too. I love to kill things.

    Perhaps this is a bit over the top for many of you. However, if we are afraid of facing the core reality of what drives many of those who hunt the wolf then, I fear, we will never prevail…we will not save the wolf from once again being extincted here in the West…that is, perhaps, unless those who persist on hunting the wolf themselves become the hunted…

  7. dourad

    (A) “Idaho is a Democratic state” Really? Since when?
    (B) killing wild critters is a rural thing, and very much western habit, regardless of party affiliation.

  8. Dan Colbert

    Look, I’ve been a supporter and contributor to Defenders and other groups for years. Rounding up supporters for meetings is great..but you see it didn’t change the vote. Petitions..nice idea..many of them..not working.
    Litigation…temporary delays at best. then they are overturned.
    Two things are clear:1)You are not going to beat these powerful interests and their bought off pols and judges with these tactics alone.
    2)Most of the public in non-wolf states has not the faintest idea what is happening ,much less how it is being done.

    The big national orgs like Defenders need to redirect their money and energy into national ad campaigns depicting very clearly what is happening and the equally horrific nature of it. People need to see the results of leg and neck traps and snares on their tv’s while eating dinner and during the local news cast.they need to see what aerial gunning and gassing dens is about.

    They need to remind people that these are the ancestors of their beloved Fido and Fifi.Buy air time ..speak to community organizations beyond the battleground states. Cause some outrage. The high road ain’t workin’ fellas.
    There are @1000 dead wolves and many more to follow.
    You can’t win this without a national stirring of the pot campaign.

    Until, I see this from the big wildlife and enviro orgs, they will see NO more of my money. Get Serious!!!

  9. Thomas Murphy

    it seems the respectful approach to individual states is not working, the slaughter continues even with very strong opposition. So it looks to be a very political agenda to eliminate the wolves. pressure needs to go to Obama and a collective union of all of these wildlife defense orgs. They need to put the money issue for their individual orgs aside and have a massive movement on this issue or it will go nowhere, the individual states are for the special interest groups such as ranchers and hunters period.

  10. xzimppledink

    I witnessed the rapid rise of prosperity created by Roosevelt’s NEW DEAL and as my family came out of survival mode and benefited from the more progressive climate all was well, we grew and began to establish wealth after 10 generations as subsistence farmers. Reaganomics changed all that, we experienced a brief glow from burning our candle at both ends then came the decline.We are financially headed back to depression days of the 30s but have not the family and friends or the land to at least provide subsistence we had at that time. In the 30s we could depend on multigenerational food producing land and social connections. today those are not present and even though we are financially better off we languor in discontent. we were happier on the farm and should never have left it.

  11. Suzanne Stone

    Idaho has heard from wolf supporters only recently and in growing numbers but we are still only the silent majority. Until we can sustain our presence and build our ranks, we are still easily dismissed. This isn’t about one or two hearings. It’s about every hearing over the next decade and beyond. As Dave Mech so eloquently stated: “If the wolf is to survive, the wolf haters must be outnumbered. They must be outshouted, out financed, and out voted. Their narrow and biased attitude must be outweighed by an attitude based on an understanding of natural processes.” -L. David Mech

  12. Jeanine

    I am an environmentalist and am a Naturalist by profession. I am all for restoring the wolves to their rightful place in the ecosystem and food chain.
    What I don’t understand is why the powers that be introduced the wrong species of Wolf to the Idaho territory. From what I understand, the Grey Wolf is the native species and instead the powers that be introduced the Red Wolf????? I understand that the Red Wold is a larger species and is throwing the population of Moose, Elk and Deer into peril.
    If I am mistaken, please correct me. If not, please explain why a non native was introduced.

  13. Defenders of Wildlife

    Hi Jeanine,
    I’m afraid you’re mistaken. The wolves reintroduced to the Northern Rockies are gray wolves, the same species that is native to the region. Red wolves are a slightly smaller species native to the southeast. You can learn more about them here: http://www.defenders.org/red-wolf/basic-facts

  14. Diana Morse

    Dear Carmen: I have relatives that are so deep into this wolf controversy. They are all Tea Party Republicans!! Very extreme!! They spread all the anti-wolf propaganda they get their hands on saying the wolves introduced in Idaho and other states are a huge variety of Canadian wolf NOT native to this region. So huge they attack and kill people. They are all diseased and the disease is spreading into humans. They are very political and also spread a lot of political propaganda about the Democratic party. I am a Democrat and have never believed and of this hateful garbage.

  15. Rosalind in Scotland

    I live in Scotland where no wolves now survive.It breaks my heart to read of the wolf massacre happening in the US.
    Over here we see you Americans as gun toting ignorant imbeciles
    shooting anything that moves.That is unfair because many are like me.You adore the beauty of nature,the majesty of the wolf.
    Guns are destroying you.
    Please,please keep fighting for them. The hunters simply CANNOT win.
    Rosalind

  16. laura

    I am disappointed and sad to see politics come into this by some commentors. Carmen, Ed, Diana… i have voted republican, i have voted democrat in my life. It has nothing to do with how I value wildlife and natural lands. How individuals are brought up and and taught to value the natural world is what changes a person’s opinion of the wild and the awesome wild creatures. You are wrong about party affiliations determining how one values all life and our planet. and i also live in a city now — 5 million people — but my life started in a central rural town in the USA. In all things it’s time to stop pigeonholing people and try to just get things accomplished, w/o discrimination and acrimony.

  17. Geria

    These guys heading and staffing government agencies will eventually learn that ideas that were acceptable one hundred years ago were never right in the first place. I hope they are able to learn. I never want to see a repeat of the terrible extermination of wolves that went on in the 1800′s. Wolves were eradicated from most of their natural ranges in the US. I don’t have the patience to keep working on their narrow minds as these wonderful Defenders of Wildlife activists do. I appauld and support their efforts.

  18. Don Lipmanson

    Wolf restoration seems to require a two-pronged approach.

    One part of our effort must be to awaken and educate the general public – especially kids – about the spiritual importance of wild lands, occupied by sizable populations of wild prey and predators. Part of this education will require getting people to understand that wolves are pack-dependent, and unlike coyotes or dogs, they cannot overcome high death rates at the hands of humans by more breeding until they refill their ecological niche.

    The other part of our effort requires focused political action. Along the West Coast, where state wildlife agencies are not entirely captive to the traditional “kill the varmint” mentality of farmer-rancher-hunter coalitions, we should demand and support bold wolf-recovery plans at the state level, including fair compensation for proven loss of livestock to wolves. WA and OR seem to be making progress in this direction, and I assume that approach will also work in CA and New England. For the rest of the country, we must pressure federal executive agencies to support full ESA protection for wolves, with vigorous federal prosecution for killing or otherwise harming wolves.

    Though wolves are taking terrible hits in a few Northern Rockies states, it’s a sign of major progress when OR and WA are arguing about the appropriate number of wolf packs instead of how to wipe them out, and when a lone adolescent could wander across a big stretch of NE California this fall and survive to tell its tale.

  19. starr

    i love wolves and it breaks my heart that they are becoming extinct. i wrote a speech about them and trying to save them.defenders have inspired me sooooo much.

  20. Makuye

    I would here like to respond largely to some comments:

    Wolf advocates often share the agenda of wildland protection, and as many know the term “keystone species” has to do with the necessity of that species to the ecosystems in which it is an effective part. Wolves are perhaps the quintessential keystone in intact original Northern temperate to subarctic and arctic life systems. While their behavior as apex carnivores is discomforting to some humans, obligate social omnivores that we are, it may be that the continuing human politicization of using lethal power to affect their presence is the main problem with which you are dealing.

    WHile I have no love for most of republican beliefs, values, or policies, I would like to remind people that Senator John Tester, the MT politician who pushed through the vile rider that prematurely delisted wolves in his and two nearby states was a democrat.
    The founders of Center for Biological Diversity and the Rewilding Institute, were intimately involved with republican politics in the part of their lives when they began the quest to save large predators, reintroduce, and protect them.

    For anyone to fall into the trap of regarding wolf protection as politically partisan, is to fall into the strategic trap laid by those who use political parties to do their killing. Whenever you accept rhetoric which defines political parties in an illiquid manner, you are going to lose to those who have developed and play that game far better than you understand it.

    Please appeal to whatever capacity is visible in each individual whom you encounter or intend to affect. Stereotyping is a heuristic, a generalisation made about behaviors or individuals with which you do not feel important enough to expend your energy, or concerning an issue that you categorise in the same fashion.

    Instead find those capacities they have for scientific understanding, compassion, or any emotion or cognition that prevents THEM from stereotyping either the Gray Wolf or those with whom they feel they are contending for human social gain. For that is largely what they are doing.

    You have to turn many people who consider themselves republican or democrat toward their real and deep values.
    On this subject: Unfortunately people who are met in bars, as the hunter above, use alcohol to avoid the possibility of cognitive/emotional dissonance, and in my now long experience, alcoholics self-medicate for their entire lifetimes, or at least until their neural pathways are so beaten with use that it is unlikely they CAN change what is left of their minds.
    They have falsely relegated, in this case, the wolf, a highly intelligent, communicative species with capacities and skills far beyond what is commonly known or understood by humans, to a competitive or parasitic or otherwise vilified fictional being.
    Some of you may have noticed that studies are discovering that other animals have emotions, cognitions, and intelligence and communicative capacities far greater than what has previously presumed by human animals in this particular culture.
    To some of you: A good scientist will always withhold judgment of such a kind, forever seeking more knowledge.
    to others: Since we cannot understand any other individual completely, it is important that we do not impose our own assumptions on them.

    I have been intimate with a wolf for close to a decade, and have met others. I am here to stop the killing of any single individual animals for any purpose except NECESSARY food.
    I appreciate the passion of Defenders of Wildlife, as the path I walk is one which has allowed me to interact with species of all kinds, and although I do not seek to win through adversarial conflict, I DO seek to help our own kind to return to a cultural reverence for and ultimate respect, if you take issue with use of the word reverence, for every individual life you encounter, even if you must bite that lettuce to live.
    Can we make a culture with such a quality?
    Other cultures extant on this continent , were based on exactly this premise.
    It is more necessary now, than ever before.

    You can stop the violent overemotionalised hatred of the wolf, which arises from fear and fear of loss in the imaginations/social minds of our kind. But you cannot do so when caught in the recursive traps of this primate mind.
    You have to step outside, in all ways.

    Politicians seek specifically to get elected, to gain social power, to be associated with those they believe to have social power. Although their purposes are pursued through keenly evaluating the social value of groups that address them, your only window to change them is one of massively enlarging their natural moral sense. Logic, learning are supports for the positions of the selves they perceive themselves to be.
    A personal interaction sufficiently profound and meaningful to their lives, is the wondow for which you search. The rest is all strategy to gain cultural change.

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