Thursday, January 22, 2015

#Wolves' reprieve in Great Lakes region short-lived if Ribble bill succeeds

January 18, 2015
“I am truly concerned by the fact the DNR is becoming a fostering institution for psychopaths. The DNR in the state of Wisconsin is a complete shame.” ~ Maria Horn, citizen communication to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

As wolf biologists breathe a sigh of relief with the recent federal court-ordered merciful end to destruction of wolves in the Great Lakes region, congressional Reps. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Dan Benishek, R-Mich. are preparing legislation to permanently remove protections for wolves in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Wyoming. Wolves were delisted three years ago in another legislative maneuver in defiance of Endangered Species Act requirements.

This is wolves’ last stand.

To protect wolves, please contact your federal representative and senator now (202-224-3121) to urge them NOT to support legislation or riders that:

• Permanently delist gray wolves in the Great Lakes region (NO to the Ribble bill). This bill would legislate delisting as was done in 2011 and 2012, and would not be subject to judicial review. Only the courts have protected wolves.
• Delist gray wolves nationwide.
• Weaken the Endangered Species Act.

The week in October when the DNR-permitted killing spree resulted in 18 wolf deaths more than the DNR's arbitrary quota, the DNR received over 1,500 emails from Wisconsin citizens and people around the country and the world in protest. Many tried to describe the benefits of natural wolf populations on ecosystems, including deer control. With 25 percent of 2-year-old bucks here dying of chronic wasting disease, one would hope science — and mercy — would prevail.

Instead, 154 wolves (87 males, 67 females) were killed in the 2014 season: 123 in traps, 22 with firearms, three with bows, six by dogs. Hound hunters turned in no wolf carcasses for voluntary inspection (to determine whether dogs and wolves fought). With 257 killed in 2013 and 117 killed in 2012, 528 wolves have been killed “legally.” Additionally, 76 were killed on farms for “depredation control” in 2012, and another 24 are known to have been killed on roads, so add another roughly 300 killed these three hunting years.

Joel Trick of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told me that, before the hunt started, a very conservative estimate of wolves killed illegally is another 100 per year. Add in the hounding of coyotes year-round statewide — the “oops, I thought it was a coyote” excuse — and the access to wolves with dogs throughout the year and that illegal kill is probably double. Given 75 percent annual wolf pup mortality, with wolves dispersed and traumatized, it is likely we are set back 30 years in wolf recovery. It took 38 years, millions of Endangered Species Fund dollars, and thousands of volunteers to bring wolves back to a toehold of survival with 800 to 850 wolves. We have few wolves left in Wisconsin.

In retaliation to the federal relisting of Wisconsin wolves on the Endangered Species list, state Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst (Sen.Tiffany@legis.wi.gov) wants to defund any DNR wolf protection. He is calling on federal legislators to "review" (weaken) the Endangered Species Act.

The DNR's carefully chosen wolf committee wanted to kill off wolves, down to the outdated and arbitrary number of 350 set over a decade ago. It is obvious they have already surpassed their agenda. Peter David, wildlife biologist for the Great Lakes Fish & Wildlife Commission, whose wolf committee participation is required by law, is the only pro-wolf panel member. He has said, “350 is totally inappropriate … the wolf population by the way biologists count wolves would stabilize (on its own) at about a thousand considering what is known about wolf habitat.”

Elizabeth Huntley, a wolf activist from Kenosha, asked the DNR under the Freedom of Information Act for the incoming emails and comments following the end of this year's wolf hunt, and was told that hours of work by staff would entail a fee of $239. This, of course, was to be a deterrent. She persevered.

The tone of 99.5 percent of these emails was outrage, horror and anger.

Comments included calls to boycott Wisconsin tourism and products, a demand to prosecute overkilling as poaching, comparisons to the horrors of the dolphin slaughter in Japan, an indictment of gross incompetence, “exterminating wolves like cockroaches,” and social media response that “the world is watching, thinking of you as a bunch of bloodthirsty killers.” Wisconsin was described constantly as an ignorant, backward and immoral state. A.C. Otey asks, “How do Wisconsin animal cruelty laws permit foothold traps when it is stated 'cruel' means causing unnecessary and excessive pain or suffering or unjustifiable injury or death?”

Many references were made to social media postings of a grinning hunter gloating over a mother wolf he killed, with her pup still alive in a trap in the background, suffering. “How do you people sleep at night?” asks Adam Benzion.

Democracy is so eviscerated that it appears that public opinion does not matter to the DNR.
In order for the Department of Natural Resources to resemble anything like its mission mandate (to protect nature and wildlife for all citizens and become a humane steward), it will take an educated, involved public demanding reform. The main reform is to create democracy in the funding, participation in, and stewardship of our commons. As long as state or federal wildlife agencies are funded by killing licenses, ammunition and gun taxes, they will remain profoundly corrupted by that source of financing and will continue to promote the destruction of wildlife.

And wolves will not have a chance.

Patricia Randolph of Portage is a longtime activist for wildlife. madravenspeak@gmail.com or www.wiwildlifeethic.org

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