F&G releases 2013 wolf report
By GREG MOORE
Express Staff Writer
About half the wolves living in the Wood River Valley and surrounding area last year were killed by hunters and government control actions, leaving about 42 wolves living in the area following the end of the 2013-14 hunting season, according to figures recently made public by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
During the hunting season, which ended in the Southern Mountains Zone on March 31, hunters killed 26 wolves, well under the quota of 40.
On Friday, the department released its 2013 Idaho Wolf Monitoring Progress Report, which estimates the wolf population statewide at 659, down from a high of 856 prior to the establishment of hunting seasons in 2009. The number remains well above the 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs required to keep gray wolves off the endangered species list under the 2009 delisting rule.
The report stated that at the end of last year, Idaho contained 107 wolf packs, down from 117 in 2012. Generalizing from the packs whose members could be counted, the department calculated a statewide average pack size of 5.4 wolves, down 33 percent from the 8.1 wolves per pack that existed during the three years prior to 2009.
The report states that 28 wolves were counted in nine packs in the Southern Mountains Wolf Zone, which includes the Wood River Valley. However, it points out that the number of individual wolves seen cannot be relied on for an accurate total. If the zone’s nine packs are typical of packs throughout the state, about 49 wolves were living there by the end of the year.
The report documents 54 wolf mortalities in the zone last year. Thirty wolves were killed through government control actions, 21 by hunters and three as the result of other human causes.
Twenty-three pups were known to have been born, though only eight survived.
State and federal agencies said Friday there were a minimum of 1,691 wolves at the end of 2013.
That’s virtually unchanged from the prior year even as state wildlife agencies adopted aggressive tactics to drive down wolf numbers.
Under pressure from livestock and hunting groups, Idaho officials have used helicopters to shoot packs. Montana has eased hunting and trapping rules.
Federal wolf recovery coordinator Mike Jimenez says he expects the population to gradually decline over time in the face of the states’ efforts, but to remain healthy.
A pending proposal would lift protections for wolves across much of the remaining Lower 48 states.
Year after year, Idaho demonstrates its intolerance for wolves. Idaho Department of Fish and Game, while tasked with preserving all of Idaho’s wildlife, continues to ratchet up hunting, trapping and snaring pressure on Idaho’s diminishing wolf population.
Around 600 wolves live in Idaho, which is also home to 83 times more coyotes, 33 times more bears, and four-to-five times more mountain lions than wolves. All of these species eat other animals to survive and all sometimes attack livestock. But Idaho reserves its special treatment for wolves alone.
Idaho’s wolf population has fallen consistently since 2009. Every year wolves have been under state management, Idaho has expanded, extended and loosened wolf hunting and trapping regulations. It’s an indefensible notion that “adequate regulatory mechanisms” are in place, as mandated by the Endangered Species Act for the oversight period under state management.
Idaho claimed it would manage wolves like any other species. No Idaho wildlife management authority can honestly defend this position.
Actions by Gov. Butch Otter and the state Legislature indicate they believe IDFG isn’t effective enough in killing wolves. The Wolf Control Board bill, “the wolf-kill bill,” was a priority the governor chose for his January State of the State address. Now, 400,000 taxpayer dollars for killing wolves is likely to be a recurring expense. Legislative sponsors and supporters repeatedly stated their intent to reduce Idaho’s wolf population to 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs, the federal minimum.
As the state of Idaho and IDFG reach to further extremes to kill more and more wolves, these actions aren’t going unnoticed.
Far beyond the scope of wildlife management, these practices are quickly giving a black eye to Idaho’s reputation across the country. Idaho is not an island. It does not exist in a vacuum. If the state walks far enough out on a limb, the limb will break, bringing Idaho back to earth under an increasingly focused spotlight.
As fewer people take up hunting, those who enjoy Idaho’s nature in a nonconsumptive way steadily increase. IDFG’s one-dimensional revenue stream from hunting and fishing licenses and tag sales cannot keep pace with fiscal challenges. It’s time to realign economic realities with income-generating constituencies.
Recognizing the increasing difficulty of remaining solvent with growing bills, Director Virgil Moore commendably organized the 2012 IDFG Wildlife Summit to modernize the agency. Unfortunately, necessary innovations are still not forthcoming. Instead, the agency continues pursuing scientifically unsupportable programs, such as excessive and expensive lethal wolf removal and expanding trapping.
Recently, IDFG conducted its sixth costly wolf eradication action in the Lolo, killing 23 wolves from a helicopter, to artificially bolster a declining elk herd, even though IDFG has acknowledged the decline was precipitated by dramatic changes to habitat and vegetation that support elk.
This spring, IDFG hired a professional hunter/trapper to kill wolf packs in the same designated wilderness where wolves were originally reintroduced. IDFG has also declared another goal – reducing wolf populations by 60 percent in the same wilderness.
Remarkably, as this continues, Idaho’s statewide elk population of 107,000 has been growing since 2010. The presence of wolves equating to poor hunting opportunity is a fallacy. Wyoming, with the third largest wolf population in the West, reported their three largest elk harvests on record in the past four years, with 45 percent success in 2013. Hunters can coexist with wolves while maintaining a robust hunting tradition.
Efforts to kill wolves on Idaho’s wild landscapes, especially in designated wilderness – where wolves belong – will never yield the long-term results the agency desires. IDFG continues burning precious dollars on failing programs, while gaining increasingly widespread negative publicity as the black sheep of the nation. For the sake of our beautiful state and all of its wildlife, let’s hope that Idaho soon corrects course.
Garrick Dutcher is the program director for the Idaho-based national nonprofit organization Living With Wolves.
by Judy Molland
March 27, 2014
The Big Bad Wolf stock figure of so many children’s fairy tales, has surfaced again.
This time it’s in France, where there has been an outcry from animal rights groups since wolf hunts have resumed due to increased attacks by the animals after their “European comeback.”
Wolves were originally hunted to extinction by farmers in France back in the 1930s, but in 1992 a mating pair crossed the border from Italy. It is now estimated that there are around 300 individuals in 25 packs across France.
For many people, this is good news, but the Daily Telegraph reports that hunters, “wolf lieutenants,” and local farmers have grouped together to carry out a cull on the animals after sheep farmers complained of incessant attacks on their flocks.
This is in spite of the fact that the wolf is a protected species under the Berne convention and European law, meaning that it can no longer be hunted or poisoned.
So how can these hunts be legal?
It turns out that there are exceptions to this rule.
Culls can take place when all other attempts at protecting local livestock have failed. Under a government wolf plan, some 24 individuals can be “removed” in this way per year.
As it happens, the attacks have been happening just 25 miles inland from the top tourist spot of Nice on the French Riviera, and just 15 miles from Grasse, known as France’s perfume capital, which might explain the push for a cull. The hills in this region of the Var, called Caussols, have lost around 100 sheep to the grey wolf.
Conservation groups are understandably furious at the decision to re-intoduce wolf-hunting.
“To return to wolf hunts as if we were in the Middle Ages is scandalous. That the local authorities are organising them is even worse,” said Jean-François Darmstaedter, president of Ferus, who threatened to challenge their legality in the European courts.
“We call them ‘political killings’ as their only aim is to allow farmers to let off steam but they will solve nothing. Blindly shooting wolves will have no effect other than to exacerbate the problem. If you kill the alpha male, you can split up a pack, which will cause far more damage.”
And in fact, public opinion today is very much on the wolf’s side. A recent poll, commissioned by a pro-wolf group, found that 80 percent of French people wanted wolves to be protected from farmers, rather than sheep from wolves.
Neverthless, the wolf is once again under attack.
Of course, the track record in the U.S. is equally awful, especially in the state of Idaho, where state lawmakers just approved a bill that sets aside $400,000 to exterminate 500 wolves. Adding insult to injury, the bill takes management away from the state wildlife agency and places it in the hands of a “wolf depredation control board” that will consist solely of members appointed and overseen by Governor Butch Otter. This is the man who in 2007 said he wanted to be the first to kill an Idaho wolf after federal protections were taken away.
This is exactly the kind of ugly attitude that animal activists feared when Congress in 2011 stripped Endangered Species Act protections from wolves in the northern Rockies, where some 1,600 wolves have been killed since protections were lifted.
So what happened? The United States worked for 40 years to return wolves to the American landscape after they had been driven to the brink of extinction in the lower 48 states.
The Endangered Species Act allowed wolves to begin recovery, at least in a few places like the northern Rocky Mountains and Great Lakes states. After reintroductions in Yellowstone National Park and parts of Idaho, wolves came back.
Now this has all changed, as politicians in Congress have stripped federal protections from wolves and passed those protections over to the states.
Some states in the U.S. are pursuing wolves in much the same way that the French government in France is pursuing wolves in the oh-so-chic area near the French Riviera.
France and the U.S. have much in common after all, and that’s definitely not good news for wolves.
By Ken Cole On February 12, 2014
The Wildlife News
New plan aims to reduce population by 60% to please elk hunters
POCATELLO, Idaho – In an effort to inflate elk populations for commercial outfitters and hunters, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) hopes to kill 60 percent of the wolves in the Middle Fork area of central Idaho’s Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, according to a predator management plan for the area released this week.
IDFG’s plan calls for an intensive program of wolf killing in the largest forested wilderness area in the lower-48 states through several successive years of professional hunting and trapping efforts designed to boost the local elk population beyond the level that can be sustained through natural predator-prey interactions. It comes just weeks after a hunter-trapper hired by the state wildlife agency killed nine wolves in an effort to exterminate two wolf packs in the Middle Fork area. State officials terminated the program in the midst of an emergency court proceeding to halt the program.
Earthjustice is in court to stop the professional extermination of wolves in central Idaho’s Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. Last month, Earthjustice filed an emergency motion asking the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to preserve the wolves and their vital contribution to the wilderness character of the . Rather than presenting its legal defense to Earthjustice’s argument, IDFG temporarily halted the program until the end of June 2014. Earthjustice will be filing its opening brief later this week in the Ninth Circuit proceeding. Earthjustice is representing long-time Idaho wilderness advocate Ralph Maughan, along with Defenders of Wildlife, Western Watersheds Project, Wilderness Watch, and Center for Biological Diversity in the case.
Statement from attorney Tim Preso of the Northern Rockies office of Earthjustice.
“The state of Idaho has made clear that it intends to double down on its plan to transform the Middle Fork area of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness from a naturally regulated wilderness to an elk farm benefiting commercial outfitters and recreational hunters. The only thing that is not clear is whether the U.S. Forest Service will step up to defend the wilderness character of this landscape on behalf of all the American people or instead will, as it has done to date, let Idaho effectively run the area to advance its own narrow interest in elk production. For our part, we intend to do everything we can to obtain a federal court ruling that will require the Forest Service to protect this special place and its wildlife.”
Statement from Idaho resident and long-time conservationist Ralph Maughan:
“By implication our lawsuit aims to protect the entire nationwide Wilderness Preservation System from similar efforts to transform the wild into a bland farm for a few kinds of common animals.”
Statement from Idaho resident and Defenders of Wildlife representative Suzanne Stone:
“It’s clear that IDFG isn’t interested in sustainable wolf recovery. Instead, they’re focused on doing anything they can to kill as many wolves as possible in the state. That’s not responsible state wildlife management any way you look at it. Idaho committed to responsibly managing wolves when federal protections were removed just a few short years ago. Actions like this just further demonstrate that they’re failing to uphold their end of the agreement.”
Statement from Ken Cole of Western Watersheds Project:
“For the idea of wilderness to have any meaning at all, wildlife must be allowed to self-regulate, to seek its own balance, to be wild. Instead, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game insists on heavy handed management of wolves in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness to benefit a tiny minority of the people who use and enjoy the area. The nation’s premier wilderness is not just a recreation area of rocks and ice, it is a thriving ecosystem that should be treated as the treasure it is.”
Statement from George Nickas, executive director of Wilderness Watch:
“The State of Idaho has shown once again it is incapable of being a responsible partner in wilderness administration. It’s high time the Forest Service exert its authority and obligation to protect the public’s interest in Wilderness and wildlife protection.”
“This outrageous plan to slaughter wolves in the lower 48′s largest wilderness in an ill-conceived attempt to increase elk numbers is only the latest example of just how backwards wildlife management has become in Idaho. Already more than 900 wolves have been killed in Idaho during state-sanctioned hunting and trapping seasons. And this unnecessary slaughter will continue unless the courts step in and stop the senseless killing.”
by Noah Greenwald, 03/24/2014
State lawmakers just approved a bill that sets aside $400,000 to exterminate 500 wolves. Adding insult to injury, the bill takes management away from the state wildlife agency and places it in the hands of a “wolf depredation control board” that will consist solely of members appointed and overseen by Governor Butch Otter, who said in 2007 that he wanted to be the first to kill an Idaho wolf after federal protections were taken away.
Just a few months ago, Idaho sent a bounty hunter into the woods to wipe out two wolf packs and more recently announced plans to kill 60 percent of the wolves in another part of the state.
The slaughter continues and Idaho’s political leaders seem to bask in the carnage they’re leaving behind.
It’s exactly the kind of ugly behavior that we feared when Congress in 2011 stripped Endangered Species Act protections from wolves in the northern Rockies, where some 1,600 wolves have been killed since protections were lifted. And it’s clear, more mass killing is on the way.
This isn’t supposed to be happening. The United States worked for 40 years to return wolves to the American landscape. Canis lupus had been driven to the brink of extinction in the lower 48 states as settlement moved west, ranching moved in and government sponsored programs trapped, poisoned and shot wolves into oblivion.
The Endangered Species Act allowed wolves to begin recovery, at least in a few places like the northern Rocky Mountains and Great Lakes states. After reintroductions in Yellowstone National Park and parts of Idaho, wolves came back. New packs formed. Families were built. Ecosystems, now with a keystone predator back in the mix, began to function like they had historically.
Politicians in Congress, though, pulled the plug and unceremoniously stripped federal protections. We were told that wolves could be responsibly managed by state wildlife agencies in places like Idaho.
Truth is, wolves are being persecuted in Idaho with the same kind of repulsive attitude that nearly drove them to extinction 100 years ago. Only now it’s happening under the official state flag.
And here’s where it gets worse: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now wants to take away federal protections for nearly all wolves in the lower 48 states. And, just like in 2011, we’re being told that wolves will be fine. They won’t be. Wolves today live in just five percent of their historic habitat.
Abandoning wolf protections across the country will not only ensure that wolves never get reestablished in places like the southern Rockies or the Northeast but that any wolves that remain will be subject to the same kind of treatment they’re getting in Idaho.
Idaho may have gone too far this time. The rule removing protections for wolves, which was made law by Congress, specified criteria under which wolves would again receive consideration for Endangered Species Act protection and this atrocious bill may just have crossed the line.
The Lewiston Tribune reports that the Fish and Game Commission made the rule change in the last week as part of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s 2014 Big Game Hunting Rules Package.
The commission also moved up the opening of wolf-trapping season in the Lolo and Selway zones.
The commission in 2012 approved year-round wolf hunting on private land in the Panhandle Region. Adding the Clearwater Region means wolf hunting on most private land from the Canadian border to the Salmon River is legal in Idaho.
Dave Cadwallader, supervisor of the department’s Clearwater Region at Lewiston, said the change likely won’t greatly increase the number of wolves killed in the region. He said it’s mainly to give private landowners the ability to kill wolves to protect property.
“It gives them an opportunity to help themselves if that is what they need,” he said. “In the end, I don’t think you are going to see an active hunting effort.”
He said the change in the Panhandle Region hasn’t resulted in a large increase in wolves being killed.
The season for hunting wolves on public land varies, but it typically runs from late August to March or June.
The start of wolf-trapping season also changed, moving from Nov. 15 to Oct. 10 in various Idaho hunting units. Cadwallader said the change is intended to kill more wolves in areas where elk herds aren’t doing well.
“A lot of trappers have told us some of the areas we are trying to focus on are extremely difficult to get to in November when the season opens up,” Cadwallader said. “This just facilitates some of that.”
But starting the trapping season earlier could put more pets at risks as people are still recreating in the area. Cadwallader said the agency is working to make the non-trapping public more aware their pets might come across traps. The department is working with trappers to reduce and prevent conflicts with pets, he added.
Another change is that wolf trappers will be able to use road-kill and other salvaged wildlife as bait for wolf traps.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) received feedback from nearly a million citizens and a host of conservation biologists for its decision to remove federal protections from wolves last year, and recently convened a new panel of experts to revisit the issue. This new panel found that the FWS relied upon one faulty paper to make its wrongful decision to strip wolves of their Endangered Species Act protections.
Without their federal safeguards, several states have opened trophy hunting and trapping seasons, and thousands of wolves have been mercilessly slaughtered. Help protect wolves and demand that they be given adequate federal protections to prevent future inhumane acts.
TAKE ACTION Here.
The FWS needs to hear from you before March 27. Please fill out the form below to submit a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.
Dear Secretary Jewell,
I value wolves and I want to see them protected by the Endangered Species Act. Without these federal safeguards, wolves are pitted against an unfair arsenal of traps, snares, baits, hounds, and shooters who kill them from low-flying aircraft. Killing wolves puts their family packs in disarray and leaves young pups to starve.
Most Americans love wolves, and wolf-watching tourists spend millions of dollars to see them in places like Yellowstone National Park. After receiving pressure from the livestock industry and extreme groups, the government has given up on wolves and literally put them in the crosshairs before they could recover to most of their historic range. It’s quite simple: wolf populations are still recovering, and the best available science does not support their removal from the protections afforded to them by the Endangered Species Act. Please provide adequate protections for this iconic and beautiful species.