Wyoming’s Wolf Plan Lethal for Wolves

Denver, CO. A coalition of grassroots conservation organizations filed suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) today for removing gray wolves in Wyoming from the federal threatened and endangered species list. The Service approved the State’s management of wolves in September, and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department commenced a wolf hunt less than a month later. At least 54 wolves have been killed by hunters just weeks into the new wolf-hunting season, which commenced October 1, 2012.

Wyoming’s “wolf management plan” allows for unregulated wolf killing in over 80 percent of the State. Fewer than 330 wolves live in Wyoming, and many will die this winter as the State intends to allow a minimum of only 100 wolves to survive outside of Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Indian Reservation. The Game and Fish Department will have no way to know when it has reached that threshold, however, because it is impossible to census wolf populations unless each individual wears a radio collar.

So many wolves have been killed already that it prompted the Game Department to close four wolf-hunting zones, and it is poised to close three more zones. One zone in the Jackson Management Unit already exceeded the State’s quota. In mid-November, Wyoming had sold 4,153 resident wolf-hunting licenses at $18 each, and 194, $180 non-resident tags.

“Americans have spent tens of millions to restore and study wolves in the West, but now a tiny anti-wolf minority is handily cutting into their small population in just a few weeks with greater bloodshed on the way as coming snows make it easier to track and hunt wolves,” said Wendy Keefover of WildEarth Guardians.

Wyoming’s wolf plan was written in part to appease the cattle and sheep industry, which has loudly protested about wolf predation on their animals. But their claims of innumerable losses are without merit. Data show that wolves kill less than one percent of cattle and sheep inventories in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

Some hunters also complain that wolves kill too many elk; yet, the States of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming each host elk populations that exceed management objectives. Wyoming’s elk population is 24 percent over its objective of 85,000 animals. The 2010 count reported 104,000 elk in the state.

“Wyoming’s wolf plan is one of appeasement, answering vociferous, but false claims about wolf predation on elk and livestock,” said Gary Macfarlane of Friends of the Clearwater.

Wolves did not evolve with hunting and trapping pressures and even low levels of killing by humans harm their populations.

“The full effects of hunting can’t be calculated, as it breaks up families of wolves,” said Priscilla Feral of Friends of Animals. “The death of parents always leaves the young to become disoriented and often abandoned to starve.”

“The future plans of millions of tourists who visit Wyoming for wolf watching will be affected, and this threatens ecotourism, one of the fastest growing industries in the region,” said David Hornoff of the National Wolfwatcher Coalition.

As top carnivores, the presence of wolves in ecosystems creates greater biological diversity, affecting species ranging from beetles to songbirds to grizzly bears.

“Wolves are a natural and important component in a fully-functioning ecosystem;” said Michael Garrity of Alliance for Wild Rockies, “without wolves, fragile stream habitats are impaired by overabundant elk and this negatively effects numerous species.”

“Wolf recovery is unfinished business until they are present in healthy numbers in all suitable habitats across the American West,” said Kenneth Cole of Western Watersheds Project.

Duane Short of Biodiversity Conservation Alliance said, “Wyoming’s wolf management ‘plan’ regresses to a past era when Wyoming’s valuable wolves were shot-on-sight as part of a deliberate extermination campaign.”

The conservation and animal advocacy groups agree that Wyoming’s wolf population has not been recovered and that it makes no sense—ecologically or economically—to subject the state’s population to hunting and trapping. Further, killing wolves will prevent their recovery in both the Northern Rocky Mountains and into the Southern Rockies, and lead to genetic bottlenecks for remaining small but isolated populations.

“The Wyoming plan is not good for wolves, for the environment, or millions of taxpayers that want to restore more wolves to the landscape,” said Denise Boggs of Conservation Congress.

Jay Tutchton, WildEarth Guardians’ General Counsel, represents the groups.

# # #

View the Complaint Here:

http://www.wildearthguardians.org/site/DocServer/Complaint_as_Filed-1.pdf

WildEarth Guardians
Alliance for the Wild Rockies
Biodiversity Conservation Alliance
Conservation Congress
Friends of Animals
Friends of the Clearwater
National Wolfwatcher Coalition
Western Watersheds Project

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About The Author

Ken Cole

Ken Cole, Western Watershed Project’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Coordinator, is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is also serves as a member of the board of directors for Buffalo Field Campaign and as a member of the Sierra Club Grazing Core Team.

14 Responses to Grassroots Conservation Organizations Sue Feds for Delisting Wolves in Wyoming

  1. avatar Cindy Cash says:

    I don’t have a website or anything like that. I’m just a true animal lover & have always really loved & have been really interested & concerned about them! I read tons of articles about them, online & books I have. It really breaks my heart to see the way they have always & still are being treated!! I would love nothing more than to see the hunting and trapping of these beautiful animals stopped forever! What can people like myself do to help somehow??

    • avatar Louise Kane says:

      Cindy you can join organizations devoted to protecting wolves, you can call and write your senators as often as you like and explain to them that you do not agree with the aggressive wolf killing or predator policies and would like to see wolves relisted. Get engaged and stay engaged and be prepared to write and spend time to educate yourself and others. If you want more info ask Ralph for my e mail, I’ll get you some

      Thanks for caring

  2. avatar CodyCoyote says:

    Here we go again . Another Wyo wolf lawsuit = another cycle in that perpetual reincarnation movie starring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell…

    Ground Dog Day

  3. avatar Leslie says:

    I assume this is lawsuit number 2, as Sierra Club, NRDC, Defenders, Earthjustice and Ctr. for biological diversity filed suite last week.

    http://earthjustice.org/news/press/2012/suit-filed-against-wyoming-s-kill-at-will-wolf-policy

  4. avatar Richie G. says:

    Good at least their is a fight now,when the population decreases,in all three states,this will show the hunt almost killed most of the wolf population.These wolves travel very far as been said by many on this site. So the population in general will decrease in all western states.

    • avatar Mark L says:

      I’ve been wondering when a new count will take place in a lot of states, and who will do the counting. Also, are states counting each other’s wolves? How do they know?

      • avatar Leslie says:

        From the regs the totals are counted at year’s end.

        “The Department will publish the results of all monitoring efforts in an annual report that will be posted on the Department’s website and will be provided to the USFWS. The annual report will fulfill the Department’s requirement to provide the USFWS with data describing the population
        status of wolves within the state during the post-delisting monitoring period.The Department expects to publish the annual report before mid-March of each year covering the previous calendar year ending on December 31.”

        • avatar Leslie says:

          At that time WY must have at least 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs.

          Again, almost every day seems like the predator zone count rises. Now at 19.

  5. avatar Louise Kane says:

    In mid-November, Wyoming had sold 4,153 resident wolf-hunting licenses at $18 each, and 194, $180 non-resident tags.

    so the state made something on the order of 100,000 killing one of their greatest money makers in tourism. Short-sighted, cruel and stupid.

    There is no way to know how many wolves are killed. 330 wolves in the entire state.

    wolves are special in that they are particularly persecuted and target by minority interests. They need federal protections everywhere not just in Wyoming, although Wyoming represents the most egregious example of shortsighted, ignorance and special interest pandering at the helm, management ever devised.

  6. avatar WM says:

    Query, will the DC suit and this one be consolidated, and , if so, where will they be heard? DC, Denver or Cheyenne (where trial court Judge Johnson already ruled that it was improper for FWS to summarily reject the WY wolf management plan if it could meet its ESA obligation, even in only 10-15 percent of the state, in the delisting decision before the one at issue here)? If Cheyenne, will Judge Johnson get the case (as Judge Molloy did in the MT delisting litigation over several years)?

    At least Denver and Cheyenne are in the same federal appellate circuit, should a resulting trial court decision be appealed.

    Let the next round begin. Ding! Ding!

  7. avatar JB says:

    This is one suit I can support without reservation. Predator/nuisance status is problematic for a variety of reasons, and it certainly should be viewed as a legitimate regulatory threat to wolves in Wyoming, and by extension, the NRMs.

    • avatar WM says:

      JB,

      I am still trying to wrap my brain around the claims in the suit, especially the basis for a NEPA claim, and a couple of the alleged ESA claims.

      It is very hard to understand where that the NEPA claim is going, given the fact that NRM “non-essential experimental population” reintroduction wolves got the EIS at the reintroduction stage in the first place, and the planning, DPS and delisting events have all had considerable public review. So if the initial impact statement was on the reintroduction and their presence, now it becomes one of reducing their number and range. Geeezus, seems like a perversion of the intent of NEPA that good ol’ Doc Hastings is just waiting to jump on.

      In the end, after all the smoke and mirror gamesmanship has cleared away, I suspect a good portion of this case will be mostly a battle of the experts, with Vucetich as a reviewer standing all alone versus the others involved in the delisting rationale science, and the genetics. I was particularly intrigued by his and Dr. Mills’ (limited) assertion that a delisted species should not ever need “human assistance” translocation as a means of augmenting gene flow under the ESA. I think that is a legal conclusion, not a scientific one. If it can be accomplished and increased flow occurs, from the activity, that ought to be the extent of Vucetich’s opinion. I also think Vucetich’s scientist as advocate history may well eventually bite him on the butt.

    • avatar Savebears says:

      JB,

      I doubt it is going to be viewed that way, until all of the numbers are in from the hunt.

      Montana and Idaho have nothing to do with this lawsuit, as they are protected by the wording of the de-listing that occurred and the no judicial review was upheld in court.

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