New MT Guv signs bad wolf bill – Even though he signed off on a bill that makes it easier for Montanans to kill wolves, we’re still hopeful that Steve Bullock, Montana’s new governor, will be a strong proponent of science-based wildlife management. He indicated as much by saying biologists, not politicians, ought to be managing wolves (read more from KPAX). Bullock has also asked the state wildlife director “to make sure that we are educating hunters about collared wolves around the parks and also to reengage the wolf management council that used to be part of our state in the past.” Both are excellent ideas that we fully support.
What’s troubling, however, is that the bill’s sponsors are perpetuating the same-old wolf fallacies. In an op-ed published by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, they contend that “as our state’s wolf population continues to grow, so do the problems for Montanans.” Yet in 2012, Montana’s livestock loss board compensated ranchers for just 122 animals. With about half a million head of cattle and 30,000 sheep in western Montana, those wolf impacts seem pretty minor. Far more animals are lost to other causes including other predators, and ranchers don’t get reimbursed when cows get struck by lightning or sheep get eaten by coyotes. Then there’s the tired complaint about wolves decimating big game populations, even though Montana still reports having about 150,000 elk – double the number of elk Montana had 30 years ago when there were no wolves at all. Elk populations need to be held in balance with habitat needs, which wolves help promote.
Unfortunately, this bill does prevent Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks from closing wolf hunting and trapping zones around national parks, nixing the creation of buffer zones around Yellowstone National Park. So we’ll have to focus our efforts now on making sure the state sets a low quota in these areas to limit the risk to wolves that leave the park.
Sign on to save wolves –Reps. Peter DeFazio (D – Oregon) and Ed Markey (D – Mass.) are fighting to protect wolves in the West, and they need your help! The congressman are sending a letter to Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, asking him to maintain federal protections for wolves where they are not yet recovered. This applies particularly to wolves in the Pacific Northwest, where they have only recently returned, and places like Colorado and Utah, where there are currently no known wolves. These are important parts of the species historic range that should not be written off. Unfortunately, the Service conducted a scientific review last year of wolf populations and is expected to strip federal protections across much of the West later this year – maybe as soon as March. This could be our last chance to make a difference before the delisting proposal is released. Tell your congressman to help protect our wolves!
A fount of wolf wisdom – Norm Bishop knows a thing or two about wolves. He spent 36 years working as a national park ranger, serving as a naturalist and interpretive guide at Yellowstone National Park leading up to the reintroduction in 1995. Since then, he has remained engaged as a wolf advocate and diligent researcher. In a talk this week in Bozeman he pulled together some of the latest studies on wolf biology, interactions with prey species, and the future of wolf conservation it the West. His review serves as one-stop shopping for a scientific rebuttal of the wolf myths that we hear over…and over…and over again.