Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Nation howls against predator status

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

By Patrick Dolan

(Special thanks to my friend, Deb, for alerting me to this article-kudos to you, Deb, for all of your wolf saving efforts!)

Jackson Hole, Wyo.-As the clock struck midnight on Friday, pens were capped across the nation as the Fish and Wildlife Service closed the public comment period on a proposal to remove grey wolves from the federal endangered species list in Wyoming. This is one of the last steps in moving the fate of grey wolves into hands of Wyoming residents and something the State has been working toward since the first wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone more than 20 years ago.

A college student in South Dakota posted the final comment close to the deadline and it read as a philosophical warning against “tampering with mother nature.” This foreboding sentiment is nothing new, yet unique among a random sampling of the more than 6,500 public comments submitted to the hosting site,

A thorough review of the comments is yet to be compiled, but a majority of comments JH Weekly reviewed claimed origin from out-of-state, highlighting national awareness of an issue monitored by many outside Wyoming.

The state’s current management plan proposal has undergone its own public comment periods and was accepted in an agreement between Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead in 2011. This is the crux of the delisting proposal. What some people feel are bare-minimum protections for wolf numbers—a minimum of 100 wolves, including 10 breeding pairs and a dual classification of predator and trophy game status—are the basics of the Wyoming plan.

The plan outlines the northwestern portion of Wyoming, including part of Teton County, and extending as far east as the Wind River Reservation, as the only areas where wolves will be considered trophy game and managed by the Wyoming Game and Fish. In the rest of the state, wolves will be classified as predators and can be killed at any time in any way. The national parks, the National Elk Refuge and Wind River Reservation are not under the jurisdiction of  Wyoming Game and Fish.

A commentator from Maryland reflected a prevailing sentiment found in many of the reviewed comments: “Removing endangered species protections from wolves in Wyoming while the state’s current management plan is in place would be disastrous for the wolf population. Wolves should have more protective, trophy game status across all of Wyoming.”

One comment left by a cattle rancher from Shawnee, Wyo., offered support of the delisting but also sought to regain a more favorable public image for herself and fellow ranchers. “Please understand that [predatory status] does not mean the citizens of Wyoming want to shoot every wolf on sight,” she wrote. “I am a rancher and I do not currently shoot every coyote, fox or other predator on sight. I respect the wildlife and their environment and do not destroy wildlife simply because they are on my place.”

Despite this plea for understating, the image of trigger happy Wyomingites is something already entrenched in the minds of many worldwide, according to Ted Kerasote. Kerasote, an author and conservationist based in Kelly, Wyo., is known for his non-fiction writings on hunting ethics, wildlife and domestic dogs. A longtime follower of the state’s battle against wolf reintroduction, Kerasote said in an interview that he regularly receives calls and letters from fans around the world, confused and concerned as to what Wyoming plans to do with wolves within its boarders.

“I try to set the stage for them in terms of why wolves are being hunted, that in fact it was part of the agreement to bring wolves back here and that it’s not some conspiracy in terms of the ranching community running roughshod over everyone’s wishes,” Kerasote said. According to Kerasote, the eventual hunt was always part of the reintroduction program, one that environmental groups agreed to.

Despite the misconception, Kerasote said the ranching community has delayed the implementation of a management plan by demanding predator status in most of the state.

Teton County Commissioners also expressed concern over the public image the plan could bring to Wyoming, and in particular Teton County. In a letter to the Wyoming Game and Fish in September, the Teton County Commissioners questioned the necessity of a flexible boundary between predator and trophy game areas that bisects Teton County along Highway 22 to the Idaho boarder for a portion of the year. Commissioners wrote, “Having a highly visible portion of our county designated as a predator area in the spring, summer and fall, when most of our visitors are here, is inconsistent with our wildlife friendly image and could damage our local economy.”

For perspective, consider the reports of wolves spotted last week near Indian Trails subdivision. According to the proposed plan, in the summer, wolves in that area would be predators. However during the majority of hunting season, including January to March, wolves in that area would be trophy game.

The commissioners’ request to consider Teton County’s interests was not included in the management proposal up for approval in the Wyoming Legislature next month.

Hello, my Wyoming friend...why must you hunt me?

Nation howls against predator status | Planet JH News Article: General News

(Note: it's worth the effort to go directly to this site to read some of the comments.)