Saturday, February 11, 2012

Wolf Weekly Wrap-up

Posted: 10 Feb 2012 

Watch out for Wyoming wolf bill – Wolf management will be on the top of the agenda for Wyoming legislators who convene for a short 20-day budget session next week (See Sublette Examiner for full story). Although the federal government has already issued its proposed delisting rule for wolves in Wyoming, the state legislature must first adopt a new wolf management plan. The draft legislation tracks with the provisions outlined in an agreement between Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in the summer.

If adopted, that plan would allow wolves to be shot on sight across a majority of the state, including in our national forests. Another controversial provision would create a “flex zone” where wolves are hunted as trophy game for part of the year but treated as unwanted predators the rest of the year. Defenders and our conservation allies have been pushing the state to adopt year-round trophy game status across the entire, but time is running out. Unless the proposed management plan gets tied up in the legislature (which is still a possibility), we could see wolves once again lose their federal protection in Wyoming by the end of the spring.  The last time this happened, all known wolves in the predator zone were killed.

The alpha male of the Imnaha pack.
A tale of two wolvesIt was the best of times. It was the worst of times… For OR-7, his greatest challenge is finding a mate during the February breeding season. For his brother OR-9, the journey is over.

OR-7, the now-legendary lone wolf that has made his way from northeast Oregon into California, has spent more than a month exploring new territory on his own without incident. OR-9, a 2 1/2-year-old male wolf also from Oregon’s Imnaha pack, was shot illegally last month by a hunter in Idaho. Idaho Fish & Game has let the hunter off with a warning, blaming the incident on reportedly bad information from a wolf tag vendor and showing their willingness to turn a blind eye on wolf poaching. Read more in the Wallowa County Chieftain.

The divergent stories of these two wolves put contrasting approaches to wolf management in stark relief. With the arrival of its first wolf, California Department of Fish and Game has been taking a measured and thoughtful approach. They’ve already held several meetings with key stakeholders and published valuable information dispelling common myths about wolves.

In Idaho, however, where wolves have now been delisted, wolf-killing has reached an all-time high. To date, 285 wolves have been killed by hunters and trappers in Idaho and an untold number have been killed by poachers. Still more wolves have been removed by state and federal wildlife managers in response to livestock depredations. Idaho Fish and Game is also still planning to take it a step further by killing up to 75 wolves by aerial gunning in the Lolo zone of Clearwater National Forest in an effort to boost elk numbers for hunters.

These aggressive actions suggest Idaho is on a crusade to reduce wolf numbers rather than managing the species responsibly.  It is validating our deepest concerns about the inadequacy of the federal wolf delisting plan which allows the states to radically reduce wolf numbers to unsustainable levels.