Tuesday, December 1, 2015

2nd Wolf Killed in Utah within a Year Highlights Need to Maintain Endangered Species Act Protections for Gray Wolves

Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, November 30, 2015
Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017, michaelr@biologicaldiversity.org

Second Wolf Killed in Utah Within a Year Highlights Need to
Maintain Endangered Species Act Protections for Gray Wolves 

SALT LAKE CITY— An 89-pound female gray wolf killed earlier this month in a strangulation snare intended for a coyote was the second wolf killed in Utah in less than a year and the third in the southern Rockies. The most recent killing occurred on or around Nov. 7 in northeastern Utah, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. The previous wolf killed in Utah was shot on Dec. 28, 2014 by a hunter who claimed he thought it was a coyote. That wolf, nicknamed Echo, had been the first wolf documented at the Grand Canyon since the 1940s. The third wolf was killed in Colorado on April 29 by a hunter making the same claim. All three wolves had migrated south from the Northern Rockies wolf population found in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.

Overall an analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity found that since 1981, more than 50 dispersing wolves have been killed as they try to expand across a greater portion of their natural range.

“Utah should end its futile and brutal war on coyotes, which in turn has had a deadly effect on at least two wolves that have wandered into the state,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The loss of these three wolves is yet another grim reminder that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needs to do more to protect dispersing wolves and foster further wolf recovery.”

Utah offers a bounty on coyotes, established at the behest of the state’s livestock industry ostensibly to increase the number of deer, even though the state acknowledges that weather and forage availability predominantly determine deer numbers and therefore that in most circumstances “predator removal won’t help deer populations to grow.”
“There’s plenty of room for wolves in Utah and with an effort to educate hunters, they would almost certainly come back on their own,” said Robinson. “Ongoing persecution of wolves is one of the prime reasons they continue to need Endangered Species Act protections in Utah and across the country.”

The Center for Biological Diversity has identified and mapped almost 19 million acres of potential wolf habitat in Utah based on criteria from scientific studies. The habitat in Utah and 18 other states would suffice to approximately double the number of wolves in the lower 48 today from 5,000 to 10,000, thereby ensuring that wolves in the U.S. never go extinct from inbreeding and that vast ecosystems benefit from their presence.
Nevertheless, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed taking wolves in Utah and elsewhere off of the endangered species list, which would halt their recovery.

Background
 
Following the revelation that state wildlife officials were aware of the presence of a wolf in Utah last year before the wolf was shot, the Center advocated for: (1) educating bounty hunters in how to differentiate coyotes from wolves; (2) providing a $1,000 reward for anyone reporting and not harming a live wolf in Utah; (3) suspending bounty hunting within 200 miles of credible wolf locations, and; (4) notifying bounty hunters of wolves and the need to keep them alive. The state has yet to respond to those requests.

The most recent wolf-killing occurred in a portion of Utah in which wolves were stripped of their Endangered Species Act protections through a rider on a must-pass budget bill in 2011. Congressional Republicans are now proposing another such rider to drop federal protections for wolves in Wyoming and in the Midwest, which would increase the number of wolves killed and decrease opportunities for their recovery in unoccupied, suitable habitat.

Scientific studies show that wolves benefit their ecosystems. For example, wolves keep elk moving thereby limiting browsing along streams and allowing saplings to mature into trees. Wolves provide carrion for scavenging animals such as eagles, wolverines and weasels. Wolves even benefit pronghorn through killing coyotes, which unlike wolves, inordinately focus their hunting on pronghorn fawns. Wolves also have the potential to limit the spread of wildlife pandemics by preying on diseased animals, just as, over the long run, wolves boost the genetic health of their prey species by ensuring the most-fit among them survive and pass on their genes.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.