13 March 2015
This week yet another sad chapter unfolded in Idaho’s clandestine and egregious war on wolves as the Idaho Department of Fish and Game announced federal Wildlife Services gunmen aerially shot and killed 19 wolves in remote Northern Idaho at the request of the state. The killings took place on U.S. national forest land in order to artificially boost elk numbers to benefit sport hunters and outfitters. Funds for this wolf killing program were provided through the state’s controversial “wolf control board” implemented by Governor Otter last year. The wolf control board is expected to receive $400,000 annually for the next three years to fund wolf killing programs like this throughout the state. This is an incredibly expensive waste of taxpayer’s money: According to the Spokesman Review, in 2014, the wolf control board spent $140,000 to kill 31 wolves between July and January – which comes out to $4,516 per wolf.
The number of breeding pairs of wolves surviving in the Idaho wild has been plummeting ever since the wolves lost federal Endangered Species Act protection and the state gained control over their management four years ago. In 2011, there were 40 breeding pairs in the state, but by the end of 2014, state estimates projected that number as having declined by 45 percent to 62 percent. If you are an Idaho resident, please consider attending the Idaho Fish and Game Commission Public Hearing on Monday, March 23 at 7 pm at the Washington Group Plaza, 720 Park Boulevard, in Boise to speak out in defense of Idaho’s wolves.
Washington Lawmakers Consider Wolf Bills
We’ve been keeping you informed about the status of several bills being considered this year by Washington’s lawmakers that, if passed, will impact wolf restoration efforts. The most damaging bill would regionally delist wolves under the state Endangered Species Act, removing needed protection for the species before they’ve fully recovered. This bill passed out of the State Senate this week on a split vote. We remain in strong opposition to this legislation and will continue to advocate before the state legislature that the bill be voted down. Another bill, which would modify the 2011 Washington Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, has been significantly modified in Committee and now includes several amendments that improve it. This bill passed out of the House unanimously this week and will now go to the state Senate for consideration.
Washington’s Wolf Population Grows, Remains Far From Recovered
Washington’s gray wolf population increased this year according to Washington’s official wolf population count for 2014, which documented 68 gray wolves statewide, an increase of 14 wolves from the 2013 year-end count. While it’s very encouraging to see this wolf population continue to grow and disperse farther throughout the state, wolf recovery in Washington remains fragile. As we said above, right now the state legislature is contemplating a bill that would remove state endangered protections for wolves which would severely undermine their continued recovery. This is occurring while anti-wolf groups continue their push in the media, spouting falsehoods about wolves in an attempt to undermine public support for restoring this iconic species. And while there was an overall increase in the population this year, three breeding females were killed in the last year.
Not only does the loss of breeding adults slow continued growth of Washington’s wolf population, but research from Denali National Park also shows that wolf packs are 77 percent more likely to break up after a breeding adult is killed. Wolf population growth is a good thing, but the fact is that wolves in Washington are still not recovered based on the best available science. And sustaining this fledgling population will require significant effort and collaboration by all parties going forward.