Sigh of relief for Montana wolves – After six months, the wolf hunting and trapping season in Montana is finally over. At least 223 wolves were killed, with the latest harvest totals showing 131 wolves taken by hunters and another 92 killed by trappers. This is a substantial increase over last year’s total of 166 wolves killed, which can be largely attributed to the addition of trapping this year and the removal of quotas across nearly all hunting districts. More troubling, however, is that the Montana legislature has already made it even easier to kill wolves next season by allowing the use of electronic calls, decreasing the cost of out-of-state wolf tags, and permitted each hunter and trapper to kill more wolves. As our Rockies & Plains Director Mike Leahy told the Flathead Beacon, the expanded regulations are unwarranted and unscientific:
“We disagree with the whole framework of wolf management right now,” he said. “We think the population should be managed and that can include a sustainable level of hunting. But most of the changes are aimed at trying to drive the wolf population down.” — Mike Leahy, Defenders of Wildlife
Open season in Wyoming’s flex zone – While Montana is closing their season, Wyoming is expanding theirs. Today begins open season in the so-called flex zone that borders Idaho and stretches southeast from Jackson Hole. From Oct 15 through February, this area is managed as part of the Trophy Game Management Area, where only licensed hunters are allowed to kill wolves through December, subject to quotas. For the rest of the year, it’s considered part of the predator zone that covers over 85 percent of the state, where wolves can be killed anytime, anywhere, by almost any means. Forty-two wolves were killed in the trophy game area during Wyoming’s first hunting season that ended in December, and another 32 wolves have been killed so far in the predator zone – more than half of the known wolves in the entire predator zone (details here). The flex zone is window-dressing for the Wyoming wolf plan that supposedly allows wolves a couple months to disperse. What it more likely does is lure wolves into some of the best wolf habitat in the state – on the Bridger-Teton National Forest, no less – where they and their pups can be killed as soon as denning starts around March. With at least 74 wolves killed since October, wiping out an entire pack could spell disaster for an already dwindling population.
The kill-at-will approach Wyoming has adopted is exactly the kind of flawed policy we knew would happen if wolves prematurely lost their Endangered Species Act protection. That’s why Defenders is suing the U.S. Department of Interior to restore Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection for wolves in Wyoming – click here to support our legal efforts.
Stop the insanity in UT – If you want to hear special interest politics at its worst, listen to this. At a recent meeting of the Utah State Legislature’s Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environmental Quality Appropriations Subcommittee, Don Peay, founder of the anti-predator group Sportsmen for Fish and Wildife, asks for $300,000 to lobby against wolf recovery. Not only does he have the gall to ask for taxpayer money to fund his personal crusade against wolves, he also tells the committee members some real whoppers. He claims that Idaho has lost $50 million in recent years because of wolves but offers no proof; says wolves are destroying jobs, private property and rural economies in Montana without offering examples; and speculates that the return of Mexican wolves to Utah would destroy all the game. Oh, and to top it off, he takes credit for stripping federal protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies by side-stepping the Endangered Species Act with a congressional budget rider. Sadly, his blatant fear-mongering and self-serving view of wildlife earn him plaudits from Utah’s anti-wildlife legislators.
To hear some crying wolf for yourself, follow this link and click on the “Wolf Re-introduction” tab to jump to the 22-minute mark.
Livestock guardian dogs video – Our colleagues at People and Carnivores in Montana put together a great video about using dogs to deter attacks on livestock. They highlight several breeds, each with unique characteristics that make them effective at keeping wolves and other predators at bay.
For years, we’ve been helping ranchers across the country purchase and deploy guard dogs to help keep their animals safe, and we’ve seen really impressive results. All our partners in the Wood River Wolf Project have used dogs along with other nonlethal deterrents, successfully keeping livestock losses to an absolute minimum. In five years, fewer than two dozen sheep have been lost to wolves. We owe much of that success to some very dedicated dogs.