Monday, January 19, 2009
The Killing of Wolves
by Jean Henry Mead
The battle again rages over open season on northern Rocky Mountain wolves. Last year the animals were briefly delisted and hunters were shooting them on sight. As a result, conservationists as well as the general public protested the animals’ slaughter and threatened to boycott Wyoming. Tourism is one of the state’s main sources of revenue, and the wolves were once again placed on the endangered species list.
When we first heard of the delisting, we rushed down to the sportsmen's store to buy a wide orange collar for our Australian Sheppard, who likes to dig out of our rural fenced yard. She looks so much like a wolf in profile that we were afraid some trigger happy hunter would target her during one of her dig-out escapades.
When the Game and Fish Commission announced this month that they plan to remove wolves from the endangered species list in Montana and Idaho, but not Wyoming, we sighed with relief. The decision, however, caused a fire storm of anger in the ranching community, which is threatening lawsuits against the federal government.
Either the wolf population in the Rockies has recovered sufficiently to be removed from the endangered list or they haven’t, says the D. C. based Defenders of Wildlife organization. Why should two states bordering Wyoming be delisted and not the cowboy state?
Wyoming has a dual status wolf plan which classifies wolves in the northwestern section of the state as trophy animals that can only be killed by licensed hunters. Some 90% of the wolf population lives in the Yellowstone Park area. The rest of the state has open season on wolves with no limitations. We live in that area.
The Bush Administration handed over management of wolves in the Northern Rockies to individual states in March 2008. In July a Montana judge issued an injunction against the ruling, saying that Game and Fish failed to ensure genetic exchange among the three-state wolf populations, and that they had flip-flopped on Wyoming’s dual status wolf plan.
All three states established trophy game zones for wolves, but Wyoming was the only state to create a predator area for the animals to be shot on sight by anyone, without limits. The ruling was only one of the concerns of Montana Judge Donald Molloy, when he issued the injunction. In October, Judge Molloy vacated the delisting rule, making it void.
At the end of October, the Fish and Wildlife Service reopened the public comment period on its plan to delist wolves, forcing the three states to have a federally approved management “scheme” before the wolves could be delisted. The Fish and Wildlife Service told Wyoming Governor Dave Fruedenthal that it would no longer accept the state’s dual wolf plan unless it complies with government regulations.
So it appears there will be plenty of lawsuits filed in Wyoming this year by ranchers, conservationists and the State of Wyoming.