For the first decade or so after their reintroduction to Yellowstone and central Idaho in 1996, the Federal Endangered Species Act safeguarded wolves from overzealous hunters and trappers, but as the director of the USFWS pointed out, the ESA is “not an animal protection act.” Blanket protection of any non-human animal goes against the grain of our political agencies, which are ultimately only answerable to the one species with the any hope of representation—Homo sapiens.
The right of an American species not to be hunted to extinction is a relatively new advancement. At present, it‘s about the only right extended to the nonhumans in this, the land of the free. Now that wolves are off the Endangered Species list in any state with even a minor population, the feds plan to remove them from the U.S. list completely, casting any pioneering individual or would-be wolf pack to the mercy (or lack thereof) of whichever state is fortunate enough to be graced by their presence.
An organized bunch of thugs, anti-wolf fanatics have been on point, lying in wait for the day wolves lose all protection and are deemed “fair game” for their killing pleasure. Lately a deceptively named hate-group calling itself “Big Game Forever” has been luring Utah state funds away from essentials such as schools and into their anti-wolf agenda. Just recently they leached $300,000 for their campaign against wolves in that currently wolf-less state.
Others, such as South Dakota, have hastily re-classified wolves from the status of protected to “varmint,” in the event that any lost wolf happens by. Even “progressive” Washington state jumped on the bandwagon, allowing people to kill wolves without permit and changing the wolf’s status to “big game,” ahead of their anticipated complete removal from federal ESA protection.
A classic example of what will happen the minute wolves lose federal protections was made clear yesterday as Washington state lawmakers approved “Emergency Rule WAC 232-36-05100B Killing wildlife causing private property damage” which includes the following provisions:
1) An owner of domestic animals, including livestock, the owner’s immediate family member, the agent of an owner, or the owner’s documented employee may kill one gray wolf (Canis lupus) without a permit issued by the director, regardless of its state classification, if the wolf is attacking their domestic animals.
(a) This section applies to the area of the state where the gray wolf is not listed as endangered or threatened under the federal endangered species act.
(b) Any wolf killed under this authority must be reported to the department within twenty-four hours.
(c) The wolf carcass must be surrendered to the department.
(d) The owner of the domestic animal must grant or assist the department in gaining access to the property where the wolf was killed for the purposes of data collection or incident investigation.
(2) If the department finds that a private citizen killed a gray wolf that was not attacking a domestic animal, or that the killing was not consistent with this rule, then that person may be prosecuted for unlawful taking of endangered wildlife under RCW 77.15.120.
The “Emergency Rule” is bad enough as it stands, but if ESA wolf protections are lifted nationwide (as is currently planned), points (1a) and (2) will be moot—there won’t be any area of the state safe for wolves, nor any “endangered wildlife” designation to discourage poaching. This is why the wolves, though arguably “recovered” in some areas, need to remain under federal ESA protection nationwide.
We can’t let them lose what little protection they still have in this country. While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service forge ahead with their plan for full removal of wolves from the ESA, we need to continue to press our new Interior Secretary Sally Jewell for both their continued protection as well as the re-listing of wolves in those states where out-of-control culling is driving them back to the brink of oblivion.
Washington’s “emergency” rule was crafted in response to a letter from ten state legislators urging their Fish and Wildlife Commission to act quickly “to maintain social tolerance for gray wolves in northeast Washington in the timeliest manner for residents.”
Hmm, killing wolves to “maintain tolerance,” where have I heard that before? Oh that’s right, it was from wildlife snuff film producer and wolf-hunter Randy Newberg who told NPR News that wolf hunts in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho are easing the animosity many local people feel toward the predator. “Having these hunting seasons has provided a level of tolerance again,” Newberg told NPR.
Let me get this straight, in order to placate and appease good ol’ boys and get them to put up with the presence of one of North America’s most historically embattled endangered species, we have to let them kill some of them once in a while? Wolf hunting and trapping are just a salve—a bit of revenge-killing for them–why not let them have their fun? By this logic, they should also be entitled to shoot an Indian every so often (like their forefathers who tried to wipe them out), to help promote tolerance and social acceptance.
It’s time to remind our politicians that the wolf-killing Calvary is about as outnumbered by those of us who appreciate wolves as General Custer was at the Battle of Little Bighorn.
What’s happening now in Washington is just how it started out in other states whose wolf-killing policies are now completely out of control. Washington wolf proponents need to realize that their wildlife policy-makers will continue to up the ante each time we accept the new status quo.
The question is, how much of a wolf-kill massacre are we willing to tolerate before we go on the warpath?
Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved