Earlier today I posted an action alert to Urge Your Representative to Stand Up for Wolves. Well, here is an article by the AP and Mark Watson in the South Dakota’s Black Hills Pioneer (a newspaper that boasts being “local and independent since 1876”—and whose attitude toward wolves obviously has remained unchanged since then), titled, “Wolf bill likely signed into law today.” The “wolf bill” in question is actually a state anti-wolf bill which unintentionally underscores why wolves need to remain on the federal Endangered Species List…
SPEARFISH — Gov. Dennis Daugaard is expected to sign a bill today that would reclassify wolves from protected species in the state to predators or varmints in East River counties.
SB 205 received final Legislative action on Feb. 26 when the House approved it 60-9. It passed in the Senate unanimously 35-0.
The bill will classify wolves the same as coyotes, foxes, skunks, gophers, ground squirrels, chipmunks, jackrabbits, marmots, porcupines, crows, and prairie dogs, but only in Eastern South Dakota. They will still remain protected by federal and state law West River.
In 2012, wolves residing in the Great Lakes population, which includes Eastern South Dakota, were removed from the federal Endangered Species Act. Now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working on plan that would delist the wolves West River as well.
Wolves don’t often roam across South Dakota, however there have been confirmed sightings. Wolves are occasionally killed by vehicles. One was killed in Harding County by a lethal trap set for coyotes and one was shot in 2012 near Custer. Olson said that one was seen just south of her Harding County ranch in February, however that sighting, like most others, lack physical evidence and are not confirmed.
The wolves that do traverse the state come from both the Rocky Mountain packs as well as the Great Lakes packs. They are typically younger males searching out mates and new territory.
Montana officials said that 255 wolves were killed in the 2012-2013 hunting and trapping season. Wyoming reported about 60 wolves killed. In Wisconsin, 117 were killed and in Minnesota, 395 were killed.
Scott Larson, a field supervisor with the Fish and Wildlife Service in Pierre, said a proposed rule by the service regarding the delisting wolves in West River should be issued this spring.
“It will be part of a larger effort,” Larson said. “The Rocky Mountain population and the Great Lakes populations have been delisted, but they are protected in most of the Lower 48 where we don’t have plans for any recovery efforts. … When you have a recovered population you have transients that move out into area where there is not suitable habitat. It doesn’t make any sense to have the protection status different.”
But dozens of U.S. House members don’t want that to happen.
A letter signed by 52 representatives [the good guys] urged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to not drop wolves from the endangered species list in areas where it hasn’t already been done. The comeback of the wolf populations in the western Great Lakes and the Northern Rockies is “a wildlife success story in the making,” the lawmakers said in a letter distributed by Reps. Peter DeFazio of Oregon and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, both Democrats. But it added that because of lingering human prejudice, “federal protection continues to be necessary to ensure that wolf recovery is allowed to proceed in additional parts of the country.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to return wolves to the Southwest, despite court battles and resistance from ranchers. It’s also reviewing the status of wolves and their potential habitat in the Pacific Northwest, where perhaps 100 of the animals are believed to roam, and in the Northeast, which has no established population although occasional sightings have been reported.
“The outcome of these reviews will identify which, if any, gray wolves should continue to receive protections under the Endangered Species Act outside of the boundaries of the recovered populations and the Southwest population,” agency spokesman Chris Tollefson said.
…And which wolves, by contrast, will be classified as “varmints,” the same as coyotes, foxes, skunks, gophers, ground squirrels, chipmunks, jackrabbits, marmots, porcupines, crows, and prairie dogs, as South Dakota has done.
Speaking of prairie dogs, please sign on to this pledge for that beleaguered cornerstone species:
Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson