Crying wolf while shooting elk – In recent years, whenever hunters have trouble finding elk, wolves take the blame. Over and over again we hear that wolves are decimating elk herds, putting outfitters out of business and making it hard on those just trying to feed their families. But here’s a little reality check: Wyoming hunters set a new record this year for killing 26,385 elk, the highest annual total ever recorded in the state’s history. Of course, some will say the reason so many elk were killed this year was because hunters were finally allowed to kill wolves too. But consider that the second highest elk harvest in Wyoming history was in 2010, when wolves were still fully protected under the Endangered Species Act. In fact, over the last decade Wyoming hunters have harvested an average of more than 22,000 elk each year, with more than 40 percent of hunters killing an elk. While there’s no disputing the fact that wolves do prey on elk, there are obviously still plenty of elk to go around. It’s time to stop pretending that all the elk have disappeared now that wolves are back on the landscape. Clearly, there are enough elk for all to share.
Wolf bill bonanza continues – It’s a mix of good news and bad news this week on the state legislative front out West. Here’s a quick run-down:
- (BAD NEWS) Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed SB 2, the appropriations bill that grants $300,000 to anti-wolf lobbyists with Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife and Big Game Forever who want to prevent wolves from ever returning to Utah.
- (BAD NEWS) Montana Senate Bill 397, which would expand hunting, trapping, and snaring of predators where elk are below objective, is still alive and well. It has now passed the state senate and only one of the objectionable provisions – allowing the baiting of bears and wolves – has been removed.
- (MIXED NEWS) Montana Senate Bill 200 has also passed both chambers and is likely to be signed by the governor, though it has been significantly watered down since it was first introduced. It would still allow landowners to determine on their own whether to remove any wolves they deem a “potential” threat to livestock, pets or people. Still, it could have been much, much worse.
- (GOOD NEWS) Idaho House Bill 336 failed in the Senate after proponents got crosswise with the state Department of Fish and Game. The bill would have taken money away from the department for conservation programs and handed it over to ranchers for livestock compensation or to kill more wolves.
- (BAD NEWS) Oregon House Bill 3452, sponsored by the Oregon Cattleman’s Association, would expand the state’s authority to kill wolves that are deemed a threat to livestock. The legislation would not require ranchers to take any proactive steps to prevent or minimize their losses using nonlethal deterrents and would grant USDA’s Wildlife Service the authority to kill wolves without consulting state biologists.
Montana wolf advisory council to reconvene – Gov. Steve Bullock is reconvening a long-dormant stakeholder group, of which Defenders was an original member, to evaluate the effectiveness of wolf management in Montana. The Wolf Advisory Council hasn’t met in five years but used to play a vital role in moderating ongoing debate over wolf management and finding common ground among diverse interests, including wildlife advocates, ranchers and state biologists. Hopefully the council will reaffirm and perhaps strengthen the Montana wolf plan, which is the most moderate in the northern Rockies but is constantly under attack in the state legislature. Their first meeting will be next Friday, April 12 starting at 8:30 a.m. at Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks headquarters in Helena and we will be monitoring the meeting. Live video streams will be available at FWP regional offices, and an audio stream will be available online. Public comment will begin at 2 p.m. Click here for more details.