Saturday, September 21, 2013

Wolf Weekly Wrap-up

wm USFWS-Wolf Tracks copy
Poll shows strong support for wolf recovery in Pacific Northwest – Most residents of California, Oregon and Washington believe wolves should continue to be protected under the Endangered Species Act, according to a new poll released by Defenders of Wildlife. The poll, conducted in early September for Defenders by Tulchin Research, shows that most Californians, Oregonians and Washingtonians want wolf recovery efforts to continue:
  • More than two-thirds in each state agree that wolves should be protected in their state and are a vital part of the America’s wilderness and natural heritage (OR – 68%; WA – 75%; CA – 83%)
  • More than two-thirds in each state agree that wolves play an important role in maintaining deer and elk populations, bringing a healthier balance to ecosystems (OR – 69%; WA – 74%; CA – 73%)
  • At least two-thirds in each state support restoring wolves to suitable habitat in their states (OR – 66; WA – 71%; CA – 69%)
  • Large majorities in each state agree that wolves should continue to be protected under the Endangered Species Act until they are fully recovered (OR – 63%; WA – 72%; CA – 80%)
Read our full press release here.

What’s an “eastern wolf”? – Part of the scientific controversy surrounding the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s current gray wolf delisting proposal involves the classification of wolves in the eastern United States. Historically, wolves ranged all across North America — from the Arctic Circle down to the Chihuahua Desert of Mexico, East Coast to West. This includes places like northern Maine and upstate New York, where suitable habitat still remains.

But FWS has determined, based on limited genetic and morphological evidence, that wolves occupying the Northeast were a distinct species. What difference does it make? As the Boston Globe points out, if eastern wolves are classified separately as a unique species, then they can be treated differently under the Endangered Species Act. The eastern United States would no longer be included as part of the broader gray wolf range being considered for delisting, and the subspecies currently occupying parts of the Rockies and Great Lakes would therefore represent a greater portion of its range. The net result is that FWS would have a stronger case for delisting wolves by treating eastern wolves as a separate species.

Ultimately, expert scientists will have to determine whether eastern wolves are truly a unique species. So far, genetic studies yielded mixed and inconclusive results. What’s troubling though is that FWS is moving forward based on just one study – one conducted by FWS biologists and published in its own journal, which hadn’t published an article since 1991 prior to the publishing of this study. It’s hard to see how that qualifies as the “best available science,” especially when contradictory studies have been published by university researchers in well-respected, peer-reviewed journals.

Read more about the ongoing debate in the New Scientist.

Senator Bennet from Colorado Talks to our Volunteers on Capitol Hill

Senator Bennet from Colorado Talks to our Volunteers on Capitol Hill
CO Senators call for local hearing – Thumbs up for Colorado Senators Michael Bennett and Mark Udall who requested a public hearing on wolf delisting in their state. The two called on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe to host a hearing in Denver to hear directly from local residents who are concerned about the implications of a national delisting on Colorado. Read their letter here.

Colorado holds the largest, best wolf habitat in the lower 48 states but not a single known wild wolf exists there today.  Despite this fact, the Service has proposed to change the status of wolves there from fully endangered to fully recovered in the western USA.  A hearing in Denver is more than warranted given the importance of this decision.

The hunt is on – Wolf hunting seasons are now open in both Montana and Idaho, and about 20 wolves have already been killed so far. There is no statewide quota in either state, but Montana hunters are limited to harvesting seven wolves in two management units adjacent to Yellowstone National Park. Montana also raised its “bag limit” to five wolves per hunter and extended the season by a month and a half. The hunting season runs until March 15, while trapping is allowed Dec. 15 to Feb. 28. Read more in the Great Falls Tribune.