On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a last‐ditch effort by the State of Alaska to make the Tongass National Forest exempt from the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. The Roadless Rule protects the wildlands at the heart of the Tongass – the most expansive temperate rainforest in the world, and America’s largest national forest – from unnecessary and damaging road construction. The Supreme Court’s decision was also a victory for Alaskans – and all American – roadless areas and wildlife. Future generations will now have the opportunity to experience the majesty of this and other forested ecosystems and the salmon, bears, wolves, birds and all the myriad wildlife that depend on it. What a great way to start the week!
Backstory on Recent Elk and Wolf Conflicts in Wyoming
The news last week brought significant attention to a very rare event in which wolves killed 19 elk outside of Bondurant, Wyoming. The elk were in a “feedground,” an area where feed is placed out for elk during the winter. Despite evidence suggesting that artificially concentrating elk in this way can lead to disease, Wyoming continues with the program. While wolves do not hunt for sport, they rarely will kill more than they can eat in one sitting, and may return to these areas to feed later. When wolves do kill more than they can eat, it is called a “surplus kill” and although it is rare, it does occur among many predator species. Wolves are still protected in Wyoming under the federal Endangered Species Act and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has already stated it will not kill these wolves, a decision we fully support.
Sad News for Wolves in Oregon
In response to a series livestock-wolf conflicts in northeast Oregon, wildlife managers have lethally removed four wolves from the Imnaha wolf pack. These four wolves appear to have split from the rest of the Imnaha pack. Due to the elderly nature of two of these wolves, in addition to unrelated injuries, they were unable to hunt wild prey, staying close to livestock instead. The other members of the Imnaha pack were not implicated in these livestock-wolf conflicts and are still in the pack’s normal territory in the Willowa Whitman National Forest.
While Oregon’s managers did appear to follow the state’s wolf management plan when responding to this difficult and evolving situation, it is still a very sad day for us to see four wolves lost. Defenders provided a great deal of input to help state officials to create this plan, offering our expertise especially on nonlethal methods of keeping wolves away from livestock. The final plan is a compromise, but it is among the best of all the state plans in that it emphasizes the value of wolves on the landscape, and requires landowners to try nonlethal methods of deterring wolves before killing them is ever considered.
We have provided the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and area ranchers with new and tested nonlethal techniques to prevent wolves from preying on livestock. These successfully prevented the loss of the Mt Emily pack in 2015 and have helped other packs like the Imnaha pack since their establishment in 2008. We have distributed information about nonlethal measures to avoid livestock losses to wolves to thousands of livestock owners and wildlife managers across the region and have hosted training workshops to help them gain hands on experience with these tools and techniques. We remain committed to working with local agencies, communities and landowners to improve the guidelines to address livestock conflicts in Oregon, and to sharing our expertise on proven nonlethal tools and strategies to reduce potential conflicts moving forward and prevent additional killing.
Catalina Tresky, Communications AssociateCatalina focuses on issues tied to federal/public lands, wildlife refuges and renewable energy siting, as well as those related to a myriad species throughout California, Oregon and the Southwest.