Montana and Idaho legalize mass killing of wolves

A lone wolf in the snow seen in Yellowstone National Park.

photo: NPS/Jim Picco

Grey Wolf (Canine lupus) Since the Europeans arrived, they have been persecuted in the United States. By the 20th century, they were on the verge of extinction.Endangered species protection and The reintroduction of Yellowstone National Park And central Idaho in the 1990s, they are one of the greatest conservation success stories in North America.

The resurgence of wolves has a great cultural resonance.Most Americans Love wolfThe gas station T-shirts and gadgets featuring this species have become kitsch American fixtures—a testament to our collective love for these charming canines.

Nevertheless, there is still aversion in some aspects.Now state legislation threatens Northern Rocky Mountains population, Concentrated in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, and a few in California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Utah.

Driven by livestock and large hunting interests, Idaho and Montana have recently enacted a series of new laws that allow aggressive hunting of wolves. Supporters falsely claim that predators threaten the livelihoods of ranchers and cause severe damage to the elk herd.

“[People] Don’t understand the truth of what the wolf did. It is not their fault. The university and the media have brainwashed them on many levels,” Steve Alder, executive director of the Idaho Wildlife Conservation Organization, insisted that this is a controversial hunting advocacy organization.

Environmentalists countered that the root of this confrontation lies in the superstition and ideological aversion to wolves, which is not consistent with the influence of wolves. The data strongly suggests that the complaints of hunting and agricultural interest groups have been exaggerated.

The predation rate of wolves on livestock is relatively low, and the elk population is stable. In Idaho, between July 2019 and July 2020, there were only 102 Confirmed livestock death, 28 more are considered possible.Montana Saw 238 confirmed kills By 2020. Both states housed millions of cattle, sheep, and other ruminants, and compensated the rancher for each confirmed loss.Elk herd is thriving 136,000 animals In Montana and 120,000 In Idaho. Most hunting areas have met or exceeded their population goals.

Ecologist Mike Phillips said: “There is no data to show that the level of conflict is sufficient to show that the mass killing of gray wolves was Montana. “They are ecologically illiterate. “

“For thousands of years, wolves have been self-regulating their populations based on the availability, habitat, and competitors of their prey,” adds Michelle Lute, conservation manager at Project Coyote, an organization dedicated to promoting the coexistence of humans and wild animals. “We just don’t need to manage them.”

The wolves of the Northern Rockies were removed from the endangered species list in 2008 and 2009, but these decisions were challenged, leading to relisting. “Whenever they are removed, the states will relax their wolves killings,” Lute observed. Now, ten years after the additional provisions of a 2011 budget bill were finally removed, the states of Idaho and Montana are stepping up efforts to completely kill the species. Lut and others who monitor the situation worry that the new draconian law will reverse the recovery of wolves for decades.

April, Montana SB 314 A goal was set to reduce 800 to 1,200 wolves in the state to 15 pairs of breeding wolves. The bill authorizes unrestricted catching of wolves, using bait, and even hunting on private land with artificial light at night under a single license.Additional legislation allows Use of traps, To extend the trapping season A month agoAnd create a plan Reimbursement It has to do with wolf hunting-essentially legalizing bounty hunting.A kind Bill Put wolves on the list of predators, allowing hunting without a permit, but failing to pass, like other This will increase the number of farmers on the Fish and Wildlife Commission, which manages hunting activities in the state, thereby biasing it towards agricultural interests.

In May, Idaho passed bill This allows hunting wolves on private property throughout the year, no bag restrictions, and the use of private contractors. Extreme methods are now also allowed, such as the use of all-terrain vehicles and dogs to track wolves and the use of traps and bait.The bill also substantially increased funding to the state government Wolf Predation Control Committee, Established in 2014.The board of directors is expected to use contractors to reduce the approximately 1,500 animals in the state to only 150, which is the minimum allowed in 2002 Wolf Management PlanThese new laws take management away from the wildlife agencies that are usually responsible for overseeing wolf hunting practices-now it is mainly legislation rather than regulation.

Andrea Zakadi, a senior lawyer at the Center for Biodiversity, said: “Biologists and wildlife managers now have zero say in how to hunt and capture wolves, even if these people are designated to make these decisions. People.” The Coalition of Environmental and Animal Welfare Groups opposed the new law.

In Montana and Idaho, some legal hunting techniques are usually limited to animals such as coyotes, foxes, and bobcats-which are classified as predatory wild animals or fur animals. These species are not as protected as large prey. Environmentalists worry that this might spur wolves to become targets in the so-called Predator Derby or killing race. Participants compete to determine who can kill the most or largest carnivores. In some cases, animals will be deliberately crushed by snowmobiles or all-terrain vehicles.Idaho Sponsored Game for Wildlife year 2013 with 2015 In addition to the coyotes, wolves were also targeted, although no wolves were eventually killed.

Even if these more extreme events are avoided, the planned extinction of the wolves will almost certainly trigger a series of harmful effects.Wolves are important controllers of herbivore populations and can eliminate weak and sick animals-they may be minimized Chronic wasting disease For example, in elk and deer populations. This is contrary to the false assertion made by some large hunting organizations that wolves have a negative impact on the availability of hunters’ deer and elk.

Michael Robinson, a senior conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, believes that the perception that the elk population is declining may only be due to anecdotal evidence. Hunters did not find elk in some places because they moved instead of being eaten by wolves.

Wolves do influence the movement of elk, and Yellowstone National Park vividly illustrates this phenomenon Reintroduced in 1995Since wolves let the elk herd run, herbivores cannot overgraze the willow, clover, and poplar saplings along the banks of the river. This allows plants to rebound and attract beavers, thereby changing the course of waterways by building dams and helping slow erosion. Therefore, the reduction of wolves to coyotes and the food provided by prey residues also allow other small predator species to return. Although some parts of the park have not been restored like others, the biologist and wolf conservationist David Parsons said that the impact on the ecosystem is clearly significant.

If the plan to drastically reduce the number of wolves is realized, all of this may be at stake.According to one annual report Produced by the Yellowstone Wolf Project, the four wolves in the park were killed while wandering outside the boundaries of the park in Montana and Idaho during the 2019 hunting season. Since the population of the park is hovering around 100, even the death of a relatively small number of wolves may have an unstable impact.

Killing a wolf may reduce the chance of survival of its members, especially since hunting is now allowed during the breeding season, which makes the cubs more likely to become orphans. And, ironically, unstable wolves are more likely to target livestock. some studiesRemoval of dominant wolves can allow sub-dominant wolves to reproduce, which may turn into livestock as easy prey.

Advocates hope to fight back before the full impact of the legislation is fully realized. In May, the Center for Biological Diversity and its partners sent a copy of petition The Secretary of the Interior and the Fish and Wildlife Service requested that the northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf population be reclassified as threatened or endangered. They also notified the Fish and Wildlife Service that Idaho and Montana are no longer eligible for funding. Pittman-Robertson Act, To spend millions of dollars in federal funds for state-level wildlife management.

“The regulations stipulate that if their actions violate the protection purpose of the Act, they will not be eligible for funding,” said Zakadi, who participated in the event.

Developments in Idaho and Montana followed another equally destructive decision. In November 2020, the Trump administration Cancel the protection of endangered species For the Great Lakes wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

A radical legal action initiated by a hunting group led to Borzoi In Wisconsin this February.Hunting wiped out one-fifth of the state’s wolves in a few days, killing Nearly 100 wolves Than the quota set by the country.A kind litigation Documents submitted by the Coalition of Advocacy Organizations in January seek to restore protection. Earth Justice’s lawyer Kristen Boyles (Kristen Boyles) said she hopes the case will be heard in the fall. At the same time, she and her colleagues are resisting attempts by the American Rifle Association and the Wildlife Park Club to dismiss the lawsuit.

Approximately 1.8 million comments on the Great Lakes delisting decision underscored public opposition.majority Idaho Residents who commented on their state’s new laws also opposed them.A kind Public Comment Forum Montana’s legislation is scheduled to take effect on June 30.

“We have to listen to the opinions of citizens, and they say,’We value them by nature.’ They have the right to live in any place that no one else can use,” Lut said. The fate of the species again depends on the power of this belief.

Richard Pallardy is a Chicago writer who has written for publications such as Discovery, Vice, and Science magazines.


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