Why Colorado needs wolves – Barry Noon knows a thing or two about wildlife. He’s a professor of ecology and conservation biology at Colorado State University, and for decades he’s been studying how land and wildlife management practices affect the health of our planet’s native ecosystems. So when he says that wolves can benefit Colorado by restoring nature’s balance, we should take his word for it.
Here’s what Noon and his colleague Kevin Crooks wrote about wolves in a guest column published this week in the Ft. Collins Coloradoan:
“The decline of top predators — species that hunt, kill and consume other animals — can initiate cascading effects that ripple throughout the food web. If wolves were re-established in Colorado, they would consume deer and elk, and the abundance of these species may decline in some areas. Not surprisingly, many hunters oppose the reintroduction of wolves for this reason. However, overabundant deer and elk populations are susceptible to disease outbreaks and have significant negative impacts on the environment. High levels of browsing on streamside plants, for example, can adversely impact many wildlife species, including birds, mammals and fish. Deer and elk populations can be controlled by hunting, but the size, age and health of animals consumed by wolves may show little resemblance to those harvested by hunters.”
The timing is perfect for a conversation about the potential benefits of restoring wolves. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced this week that it will host a public hearing in Denver on Oct. 17 to take public comment on its proposal to delist gray wolves. If finalized, the current proposal could make it nearly impossible for wolves to return to Colorado where there is excellent unoccupied wolf habitat. We’ll need your help to convince the Fish and Wildlife Service that it’s too soon to give up on wolves in Colorado!
No shutdown in Sac-town – Speaking of hearings, Defenders outreach team didn’t let the federal government shutdown deter our dedicated wolf advocates in California. Even though the official public hearings scheduled for this week in Sacramento and Albuquerque were postponed, we held trainings nonetheless to prepare our activists. Nearly 100 people turned out Wednesday to learn how to deliver effective testimony and to share outreach ideas with fellow wolf supporters. That kind of enthusiasm bodes very well for the future of wolves in California, where wolves deserve a chance to recover. Great job, everyone!
We’re hoping for a similar turnout this afternoon in Albuquerque to support Mexican gray wolf recovery across the Southwest.
New pack, new landowners to help in Oregon – Here’s a special field update from our wolf conservationist Suzanne Stone…
This summer, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) confirmed the seventh known wolf pack in the state. The new Mt Emily pack appears to be sharing a border with the Umatilla River pack and may have family ties between the two packs. Most of the packs’ range is on private timberland bordered by small farms and homesteads with few commercial cattle or sheep operations in the area. A few conflicts have occurred so far this year resulting in the loss of a goat and possibly a lamb.
On Monday, accompanied by an ODFW wolf biologist, we explored the area wolf range. There are a range of options from carcass removal to lighting, night penning and more that would help reduce conflicts with wolves and livestock. Most importantly, ODFW is working on community-level awareness about wolves and predation risks, yet they have avoided using the alarmist tactics that other states have adopted. The Umatilla tribal wildlife program is also helping ODFW address residents’ concerns and provide common sense information to help people adapt to living with wolves. Hopefully other states will take advantage of the opportunities to learn from Oregon’s successful example.
Proposed management changes in Washington – Today, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is considering controversial changes to its wolf management plan, less than two years after the plan was approved by a diverse group of stakeholders and adopted by the state wildlife commission. The changes would make it easier for pet and livestock owners to kill wolves attacking their animals and loosen the guidelines for paying compensation for those losses. While these changes may seem reasonable, the net effect will be to diminish protections for wolves while the population is still far from recovered. With only about 50 wolves in Washington, there’s no reason the state should already be making it easier to kill wolves. Instead, the wildlife commission ought to continue educating residents about better ways to safely coexist with wolves by promoting nonlethal deterrents and other livestock protection strategies. Our new Washington outreach representative John Rosapepe will report back next week on the results of today’s meeting.