More wolves killed at Flat Top – At least six wolves have been killed unnecessarily at the Flat Top ranch in central Idaho so far this season. The Idaho Mountain Express reports that federal agents with USDA’s Wildlife Services removed a female wolf on May 29, a sub-adult male on June 26, an adult male on July 3 and an eight-week-old female pup on July 8. In addition, we’ve gotten reports that two more pups were killed this week as a result of ongoing control actions. These last removals are perhaps the most disheartening since this year’s pups were almost certainly not involved in sheep depredations as they’re too young to hunt.
Though within Blaine County, the Flat Top ranch is not part of our Wood River Wolf Project and has not implemented recommended nonlethal measures to prevent conflict. Instead, the owner continues to suffer losses of unprotected sheep while relying on taxpayer-funded lethal control to get rid of unwanted “problem” wolves. With such perverse incentives in place to subsidize the killing of native wildlife, there is little motivation for some ranchers to change their outdated and destructive practices. But we’re working hard at Wood River to show that sheep and wolves really can coexist when our partners in the livestock community are willing to meet us halfway.
Montana approves expanded wolf hunting – Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission approved new regulations for the upcoming hunting and trapping season that will yet again allow even more wolves to be killed. Each hunter or trapper will be able to kill up to five wolves now, and the general rifle season was extended by two weeks until March 15. Though there is still no statewide limit on the number of wolves that can be killed, there will be a quota of seven wolves across the two hunting districts just north of Yellowstone National Park. In these areas, each hunter may only kill one wolf. However, it remains to be seen how this rule will be enforced for trappers who set multiple traps and risk catching more than one wolf. Further, the loss of seven more Yellowstone wolves could continue to deplete the park’s iconic wolf population, negatively impacting both tourism and scientific research. Read a detailed report of Wednesday’s public hearing from the Helena Independent Record, including criticism of the new regulations from many concerned Montanans. Defenders members and other wolf advocates made a strong showing in opposition to the proposed changes, but the commission is moving forward with a more aggressive season nonetheless.
Anti-wolf lobbyists face tough questions – Some state lawmakers in Utah are scrutinizing the decision to hand over more than $800,000 to an anti-wolf organization with almost no strings attached or no questions asked…until now. State Senate Minority Leader Gene Davis (D-Salt Lake City) is demanding an audit of Big Game Forever, a spin-off of the anti-predator group Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife. So far the organization has had very little to show for their efforts, except for continued fear-mongering about the supposed impacts of potential wolf restoration on the state’s hunting and livestock industries. The Salt Lake Tribune responded with a brilliant editorial demanding more accountability for wasteful spending from the cash-strapped state, and a companion cartoon sums up the situation perfectly.
Help us combat anti-wolf politics by telling the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to maintain federal protections for gray wolves where they are still not recovered. Visit www.defenders.org/savewolves.
A wolverine at Wood River! – You never know what will turn up on camera in the wilds of Idaho. Our field crew set up several remote, motion-activated cameras to keep track of wolf activity in the Wood River Valley, but they’ve documented lots of other species too. So far, they’ve gotten photos of elk, deer, bears, cougars, wolves, coyotes, foxes, martens, antelope, grouse… and now you can add a wolverine to the list!
This extremely rare sighting is the closest any of us are likely to come to seeing a wolverine in the wild. There are only an estimated 300 wolverines or fewer in the western United States, with only a fraction of those in Idaho. So this sighting only reaffirms how important it is to protect wild places where species like wolves and wolverines can thrive.