More wolves, fewer livestock losses across the region – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published its annual wolf report this week with some interesting results. Livestock losses to wolves declined for the second straight year even as the Northern Rockies wolf population increased slightly (see charts for details on overall population and depredation totals). Clearly, any claims that more wolves need to be killed to address escalating conflicts with livestock are unfounded. Wolf management that is focused more on resolving legitimate conflicts instead of worrying about the overall number of wolves is likely to be more efficient and effective. As we’ve seen in recent years, increased wolf numbers do not necessarily mean increased conflicts. Defenders will continue to urge the states to prioritize nonlethal management strategies for reducing conflicts with wolves, and to exercise discretion before deciding to take more aggressive removal actions, to ensure a lasting future for a healthy, sustainable wolf population.
Wolves in Utah? – The Salt Lake Tribune reported this week that four large canines were spotted in eastern Utah County. Wildlife managers are still trying to confirm whether the animals were wild wolves, coyotes or wolf hybrids. But if they are wolves, this could be the first documented pack of wolves outside the far northeastern corner of the state. Protections for wolves in northeast Utah were removed in May along with the rest of the Northern Rockies (except Wyoming), but gray wolves remain protected everywhere else in the state. Sadly, state law mandates that Utah wildlife managers must ask the federal government to kill any wolves that arrive in the state. It’s up to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife to decide whether to carry out the action.
Gov. Otter wants feds to pay for more wolf killing – Management of non-endangered species is largely a state responsibility, one the states aggressively defend. Increasingly, however, states are asking the federal government to manage their wildlife. Idaho already asked USDA Wildlife Services to kill wolves for them on the Clearwater National Forest in an attempt to boost elk numbers, which Wildlife Services did (despite nearly 90,000 comments from Defenders members and supporters asking them not to). Now Idaho Gov. Butch Otter is in Washington D.C., asking the federal government to kick in even more to fund elk and wolf management in Idaho and to compensate ranchers.
The federal government already contributes to livestock loss prevention and compensation through the Livestock Loss Demonstration Project, a federal program Defenders has been working to expand and improve with its primary sponsor, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT). And Defenders has already spent more than $400,000 on our livestock compensation and wolf coexistence programs in Idaho. The federal government has an important role to play in helping states learn how to manage wolves and reduce conflicts. What is not appropriate is what Governor Otter appears to be asking for – taxpayer funding for managing elk herds by removing wolves.
See the full story in the Idaho Statesmen, including our wolf expert Suzanne Stone’s response about the real costs (and benefits!) of having wolves on the landscape.
“In some ways wolves are benefitting elk in that they’re the only predator that actually culls disease and other illnesses from those herds. Over time, wolves actually improve the overall health of elk populations. So the wolves should maybe be charging Idaho for their services.” – Suzanne Stone, Defenders Northern Rockies representative
A fresh take on wolves from down under – Sometimes it helps to get an outside perspective on things, and that’s just what an Australian television network did with their documentary on the wolf controversy in the Northern Rockies. They visited Idaho and Montana last year to talk to people across the spectrum, from diehard wolf lovers to anti-wolf extremists and plenty more in between. Check it out below, and don’t miss Suzanne’s cameo at the 12:15 mark that begins a segment on the work we’re doing with ranchers to use nonlethal tools to reduce conflict between wolves and livestock. Throughout the video, members of Idaho’s Nez Perce tribe also offer tremendous insights into the cultural significance of having wolves back on the landscape.