IDFG approves $50K for Wildlife Services – Wolf supporters voiced strong opposition in Boise this week to Idaho Fish and Game Commission’s plan to eliminate more wolves in order to boost elk herds for hunters. But the commission voted to approve the measure nonetheless. See what our wolf expert Suzanne Stone had to say about the decision on KTVB-Boise:
By the state’s own count, more than 400 wolves were killed in Idaho in 2012—more than half the 2011 year-end estimate for the total number of wolves living in the state (746). Yet the commission still approved the transfer of $50,000 from their coyote control program to pay USDA’s Wildlife Services to kill more wolves. In the past, Wildlife Services has removed entire packs via aerial gunning, and the state is also considering paying seasoned trappers to increase their efforts to kill wolves in certain parts of the state. The silver lining on this dark cloud is that the commission was open to hearing more about nonlethal methods of reducing conflict with livestock and willing to explain their approach to wolf and ungulate management.
Meanwhile, the state legislature continues to entertain new bills that make it easier to kill wolves, including one that would allow dead wolves (and other animals) to be used as bait. Read more in the Idaho Mountain Express.
“It’s exploiting the wolves’ sense of family bonding… It sounds like what they’re proposing is using members of the pack to bait other family members. [Wolves] keep very close track of each other. They worry if a member is gone, and they would go looking for it.” –Suzanne Stone, Idaho Mountain Express
Lopsided wolf meetings show difficult road for wolves in eastern Washington – The house was packed in Spokane this week for one of three public meetings hosted by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to learn more about the state’s wolf management efforts. Wolf advocates raised serious concerns last fall after the entire Wedge Pack was removed in response to reported livestock losses. Wildlife managers said they will continue to explore nonlethal management options, including range riders and guard dogs, but lethal removal will remain an option. While there was much discussion about how to deal with problem wolves and the challenges facing wolf recovery, there was almost no discussion of the myriad benefits that wolves can bring to the ecosystem and the economy. From public questions it was clear that anti-wolf rhetoric is alive and well in eastern Washington. Improving social tolerance and understanding of wolves will be critical to wolf recovery in this region.
FWP re-considers Yellowstone closures – Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has re-opened its public comment period on a proposal to close wolf hunting districts just outside Yellowstone National Park (see FWP news release and AP coverage on Huffington Post). The state still faces a legal challenge in court from anti-wolf groups who opposed the closures, though a second decision slated for Jan. 29 after the comment period closes could moot the case. The FWP Commission implemented the closures in mid-December to protect wolves that spend most of their time inside the park but occasionally wander beyond its invisible borders in search of food or a mate. Several Yellowstone wolves had been killed by hunters just outside the park, and a few wore tracking collars used by researchers to study wolf behavior.
You can submit comments to FWP supporting the closures through January 25th. Submit online here.
More wolves in Oregon – 2012 turned out to be a relatively good year for wolves in Oregon. Conflicts over livestock were kept to a minimum, thanks to diligent management by the state and cooperation from several ranchers who have adopted nonlethal, preventative measures. As a result, the estimated number of wolves increased to 53, including five breeding pairs (see ODFW’s news update). However, all seven confirmed packs are still confined to the northeast corner of the state. Dispersing individuals have yet to establish packs across the vast majority of the state, which means there is still important work to do.