Regional wolf population drops 7% – The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service released its Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery 2012 Interagency Annual Report last Friday afternoon with little fanfare (see coverage from the Missoulian). As previously reported, state wolf populations were down in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming but up in Oregon and Washington. The overall population and number of breeding pairs across the entire six-state region declined about seven percent, with the steepest drop in Wyoming that lost 16 percent of its wolves and 22 percent of its breeding pairs. Fortunately, at least 1,674 wolves and 103 breeding pairs were counted at the end of the year, demonstrating the species resilience so far in the face of aggressive wolf-killing efforts by the states.
Once again, confirmed livestock losses to wolves were extremely low. A total of just 194 cattle and 470 sheep were killed by wolves in 2012 in a region where more than eight million cattle and about a million sheep blanket the landscape, including vast tracts of public lands that are leased to ranchers.
Montana wolf council offers mixed advice – Offering bounties to kill more wolves was one of the suggestions entertained by Montana’s Wolf Advisory Council last week, according to a news report from the Helena Independent Record. While there was general consensus that Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks was doing a decent job of balancing competing interests, that didn’t stop some council members from pushing for antiquated management practices similar to the eradication campaigns of the 1930s and ‘40s. Others argued that Yellowstone’s wolves do not deserve special treatment even though they are vital to the region’s economy. We’ll have to wait and see if the council has any influence on rules for the upcoming hunting season to be determined next month.
Oregon online townhall recap – In case you missed it, you can read through Wednesday’s live chat about wolf management in Oregon, hosted by Oregonian reporter Harry Esteve. There were a lot of insightful comments from wolf supporters who want the state to prioritize nonlethal tools that prevent conflict between livestock and wolves instead of allowing ranchers to simply kill wolves that they think are a threat. Here are a few examples:
Comment From Steve and Joy Mamoyac
HB 3452 would declare open season on wolves. The proposed legislation addresses a false problem and simply caters to those entities that will never accept the fact that wolves are here to stay. It is time to say “enough”. If this bill is enacted expect additional legal measures to be initiated that will provide endangered wolves with the protections they require and deserve. Better this bad bill be dismissed and constructive efforts increased to prevent conflict and promote acceptance.
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Comment From Guest
I support only NONLETHAL methods to control wolves. The proposed legislation relies too heavily on the good faith of livestock producers in reporting whether wolves were in the act of killing or feeding on livestock. There is already a prevalent culture among many producers of “shoot, shovel, and shut up,” and this legislation encourages that mentality.
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Comment From Catchalot
No wolves have been killed for 16 months. Wolf numbers are up in Wallowa County, but loss compensation claims decreased from 2011 to 2012 by around 70%, fatal wolf attacks by 60% (from 15 to 6) and total number of attacks by 20% (from 15 to 12). One major difference in 2012 was the use of $25,000 worth of nonlethal tools and practices. So it looks like nonlethal is working. Why then should ranchers to have the right to kill wolves on their own discretion? Don’t you think this would open the door to widespread abuse by those who want nothing more than to exterminate wolves once again? Wolves are still endangered here, there are certainly less than 100 in Oregon. They need protection.
Wolves help bears survive climate change – Bears and wolves in Yellowstone tend to keep to themselves. While wolves may occasionally chase a grizzly bear off an elk carcass, or vice versa, the species are seldom in direct competition. But that doesn’t mean they don’t help each other out indirectly, from time to time. A paper published this year in The Journal of Wildlife Management suggests that wolves may be inadvertently helping bears adjust to new food sources. As cutthroat trout and whitebark pine nuts become more scarce because of climate change, bears are relying more on alternatives like false truffles and elk, including those killed by wolves. This gives at least anecdotal evidence that diverse ecosystems are better equipped to adapt to a changing climate.