30 September 2012


Excerpts from David Lawlor's excellent piece for the website Earthjustice ~

"Since returning to their native landscape, wolves have restored a more natural balance to [the] Northern Rockies ecosystem. Wolves benefit the health of elk and deer populations by primarily hunting animals that are old, very young, injured, or diseased, leaving the healthiest animals to produce the next generation.  In Yellowstone National Park, the renewed presence of wolves has altered the behavior of elk, which now commonly avoid areas where they are most vulnerable to predation, and in turn has reduced overgrazing of young aspen and willow shoots. This restoration of shrubs and trees is essential, especially in riparian areas where the trees reduce stream erosion, and support native bird communities, beaver populations, and other wildlife.  Wolves aggressively prey upon coyotes within the wolves' home territories.  By reducing the number of coyotes in the area, the presence of wolves has also benefited populations of small rodents, birds of prey (who feed in the rodents), and pronghorn antelope (who are often preyed upon by coyotes).  As the gray wolf's reintroduction illustrates, healthy ecosystems are interconnected, holistic entities requiring rich biodiversity, including the presence of apex predators such as wolves.

" .... In 2011, Congress gave hunters and trappers in Montana and Idaho the right to kill wolves that had previously been protected under the Endangered Species Act, nullifying a court victory won by Earthjustice that would have prevented the hunts.  Since then, management of wolves in the two states has grown increasingly hostile as the states have expanded their wolf quotas and hunting seasons.  During the 2011-2012 season, hunters and trappers killed 366 wolves in Montana and Idaho.  Even while approving state management of wolves in those two states, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in the past denied this authority to Wyoming due to its even more extreme anti-wolf laws.

"But now, the fate of Wyoming's wolves is in serious jeopardy.

"Shortly after Congress stripped Endangered Species Act protections from Montana and Idaho wolves, FWS proposed a similar rule to remove protections for Wyoming wolves and turn management authority over to the state.  Wyoming's brutal wolf management plan calls for unlimited shoot-on-sight killing of wolves in about 85 percent of the state and the licensed killing of wolves in the remaining 15 percent.  Independent scientists say that a sustainable, fully recovered population would require 2,000 to 3,000 wolves in the Northern Rockies.  Currently there are an estimated 1,700 wolves in the region, about 326 of which are in Wyoming.

" .... Hunters in the Northern Rockies have been bending the ears of the region's politicians for years, complaining that wolves have decreased elk and deer populations, making hunting more difficult.  And ranchers in the area frequently bemoan the killing of livestock by wolves.  But in fact, most elk herds in the Northern Rockies are larger than state management objectives.  Indeed, Wyoming recently authorized additional elk hunting in that state to address high herd numbers.  And while ranchers express concern about the loss of livestock, studies show that wolves kill a very small  number of livestock ~ digestive problems, harsh weather and domesticated dogs all account for exponentially more livestock deaths than wolves."

So here we are.  In less than 24 hours, wolves will be shot on sight and trapped throughout most of the state.  It will even be legal to gas wolf dens, kill wolf pups, and bait wolves into conflicts as a pretext for wolf killing.  Anyone who follows this forum knows that in my view predators should be protected, not murdered.  Gray wolves should never have been removed from the Endangered Species list.  Wolves were virtually exterminated from the American West in the last century.  It took years of research and public pressure to facilitate their reintroduction into the northern Rocky Mountain states, and as the first paragraph describes, the result has been decisively healthy for the entire ecosystem.  Now that wolf numbers are approaching even a conservatively estimated sustainable population, national politicians no longer want to be bothered, and state and local politicians are eager to pander to the bloodlust of the hunters and ranchers among their constituents.  The locals too often do not see the bigger picture.  Those who do see the bigger picture, are abdicating responsibility for stewardship not only of wolves, but of ALL species in the wolves' community.

This is why, contrary to my custom of not soliciting readers, I urge you to go to the Earthjustice website ("because the Earth needs a good lawyer"), and make a donation toward getting the Wyoming wolf hunt ruling reversed.  It is only by safeguarding predators in the wild (along with protecting and expanding natural habitat) that we can comprehensively protect wilderness in its entirety.  We humans need wilderness, even if we never in our lives visit there.  It is a core component to the health of our own souls.

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