Siskiyou County to Seek Alternatives to Killing Thousands of Animals Each Year
YREKA, Calif.— Responding to legal pressure from a coalition of animal-protection and conservation groups, Siskiyou County officials have announced the suspension of its contract with the notorious federal wildlife-killing program known as Wildlife Services, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program has killed more than 28,000 animals in the county over the past decade.
Siskiyou County’s decision came after coalition members warned the county in June that its contract with Wildlife Services violates the California Environmental Quality Act. Coalition members include the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal Welfare Institute, Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Protection Information Center, Mountain Lion Foundation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Project Coyote and WildEarth Guardians.
“Siskiyou is the fourth county to suspend its contract with Wildlife Services as a result of our efforts,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “Other California counties with wildlife-killing programs should sit up and take notice: This succession of wins for wildlife has generated a momentum that is impossible to ignore.”
Under its Siskiyou County contracts, Wildlife Services killed approximately 28,000 animals in the County from 2008 to 2016. The program targeted ecologically important native wildlife like coyotes, mountain lions and black bears without assessing the environmental damage or considering alternatives. Using inhumane and indiscriminate methods like traps and snares, Wildlife Services also killed nontarget animals, including domestic dogs and cats. The program, which has killed thousands of birds each year, likely also harmed protected wildlife such as tricolored blackbirds.
“With another California county having now cancelled its contract with Wildlife Services, I’m hopeful this victory marks the turn of the tide for California’s wildlife,” said Collette Adkins, a biologist and attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Siskiyou County is smart to seek out an alternative to this ineffective, cruel and harmful wildlife-killing program.”
Siskiyou is the latest county in California to reexamine its contract with Wildlife Services amid pressure from the animal-protection and conservation coalition. Earlier this summer, Shasta County cancelled its contract with Wildlife Services. In 2015, in settlement of a lawsuit filed by coalition organizations, Mendocino County agreed to fully evaluate nonlethal predator-control alternatives. And in 2017 a California court ruled in favor of the coalition in finding that Monterey County must conduct an environmental review before renewing its contract with Wildlife Services.
“Siskiyou County’s decision recognizes the unacceptable risk that Wildlife Services’ methods present to the many threatened and endangered species that call the county home,” said Johanna Hamburger, a wildlife attorney at the Animal Welfare Institute. “This is a significant step that will protect species such as the tricolored blackbird, which has declined by nearly 90 percent in the past 90 years, and is easily mistaken for other species of blackbirds that Wildlife Services routinely targets.”
“We commend Siskiyou County for this enlightened decision,” said Camilla Fox, founder and executive director of Project Coyote. “There are many nonlethal methods and models for reducing conflicts between people, livestock and wildlife that are cost effective, ecologically sound and ethically defensible.”
“Communities across California are becoming models for successful science-based human-wildlife coexistence,” said Michelle Lute, wildlife coexistence campaigner for WildEarth Guardians. “We welcome Siskiyou County to the growing community of people harmoniously living with wildlife in our shared ecosystems.”
Project Coyote is a fiscally sponsored project of Earth Island Institute which has received a Four Star rating from Charity Navigator.
RMEF provides funds to the Foundation for Wildlife Management (F4WM), which says its mission “is to promote ungulate population recovery in areas negatively impacted by wolves.” While F4WM is based in Idaho, RMEF is stationed in Montana. F4WM held a meeting on April 5 in Sandpoint, Idaho, in an attempt to drum up support for the expanded bounty program. On April 6, Justin Webb, Mission Advancement Director for F4WM, wrote on the group’s Facebook page, “We had several folks from Montana expressing interest in F4WM expanding into Montana, and all were willing to help create Montana funding!”
Webb cautioned however, that it might take some time to determine if F4WM will go ahead with the effort. “[We] should be able to announce yay or nay on an F4WM expansion into Montana within a couple weeks. We have some business operational hurdles to work through, and fine tuning the legistics [sic] of the expansion.”
“These wolf lottery efforts are dismantling a century-long conservation heritage that is shared not just with environmental groups but with a lot of sportsmen groups as well,” said Erik Molvar, Executive Director for the Western Watersheds Project, in an exclusive interview with EnviroNews.
F4WM’s sole sponsor is RMEF. The group published an open letter to President Donald Trump on its website, calling the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone and Idaho “illegal” and telling the President that this “was one extreme criminal act of fraud and theft committed under the administration of William Jefferson Clinton that truly needs to be revisited.”
In 2012, Montana elk hunter Dave Stalling wrote in an op-ed for High Country News about what he described as the RMEF’s “all-out war against wolves.” Stalling worked previously for RMEF and saw changes that he linked to the hiring of David Allen as its director. Today, Allen is President and Chief Executive Officer at RMEF. Allen has supported the delisting of wolves as an endangered species in both Wyoming and Oregon.
“This is an organization that has always been at the fringes of the conservation movement,” said Molvar. “Basically, they are really anti-conservationists in disguise.”
In Idaho, the Department of Fish and Game (IDFG), which regulates hunting in the state, is beset with a funding scandal. An op-ed authored by local hunter Dave Cappell in the January 14, 2017 Idaho State Journal, alleges that two IDFG commissioners were told their terms would not be renewed so that new commissioners, who would approve a system of auction tags for game hunters, could be appointed.
IDFG relies on hunting fees for one-third of its budget. Faced with license fees that have not increased since 2005, the Department has looked at alternative strategies including salary savings.
The 2015 population of wolves in Idaho was documented as 786 animals. During the same year, humans were responsible for the death of 352 wolves, including legal hunting and trapping that took 256 animals. IDFG allows each hunter or trapper to take up to five wolves per year. Wolves may not be baited but electronic calls can be used.
In Montana, where hunting, fishing and other recreational activity fees account for more than two-thirds of the budget for the state’s Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks, 246 wolves were harvested in 2016. License fees have been increased recently, but are still not sufficient to cover expenses.
Wolf culls are seen as a way to increase the elk population, providing more game for hunters and more license fees for states. But Molvar holds a different view, telling EnviroNews, “There is no place in responsible wildlife management for this kind of killing for fun and money.”
But slaughtering wolves is not just limited to Idaho and Montana. This week, federal legislation signed into law by President Trump will allow the killing of wolves with pups in their dens on wildlife refuges in the state of Alaska, while in California, a lawsuit has been filed by the California Cattlemen’s Association and California Farm Bureau challenging the listing of gray wolves as endangered in the Golden State. Only a handful of specimens have been seen in California since OR-7, a lone wolf from Oregon, arrived in 2011. Prior to that, no wolves were known to be in the state since 1924.
RMEF is steadfast in its opposition to wolves. According to a position statement on its website:
“RMEF will continue to advocate for predator management and control efforts on the ground and in the courts. RMEF will fund continuing research projects, work with Congress and state agencies, track legislative matters, educate hunters and the public, and rally members on predator-related issues so all wildlife populations can be sustained forever. RMEF supports major legislation in Congress that would reinstate the previous U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service wolf delisting rule in the Great Lakes states and Wyoming.”
Molvar disagrees with that statement and says, “The wolf belongs in Western ecosystems. The RMEF is trying to set back conservation 150 years.”
A team of women known as “squirrel girls” helped weigh animals on digital scales at the annual Squirrel Slam in Brockport, N.Y., on Saturday.CreditMike Bradley for The New York Times
BROCKPORT, N.Y. — They crouched and hid, using the gray, rainy skies and fallow fields as camouflage. They scurried across well-traveled roads, up barren trees and perhaps even toward the border with Canada. They used their wits, their two extra legs and — yes — their bushy tails to fend off their pursuers.
And yet, it was not the squirrels but the hunters who triumphed here on Saturday during the annual Squirrel Slam, a decade-old fund-raising event that has drawn the ire of animal lovers and environmentalists.
The slam and its former host and beneficiary — a volunteer fire department in the nearby town of Holley in western New York — are the subject of a lawsuit filed in state court by Lauren Sheive, a squirrel aficionado who claims there has not been a proper review of its environmental effect.
In particular, Ms. Sheive and her lawyers allege that the slam — which is held on the last Saturday of February during squirrel-hunting season — is particularly damaging to the arboreal rodents because the key to winning the one-day contest is to bag the heaviest squirrels; that is, those that might be pregnant.
“Since it is baby time, the moms will be fatter and larger,” according to an affidavit submitted by Ms. Sheive, who lives in Williamson, N.Y., east of Rochester. “So if, as could happen, there is an overkilling of females who are potentially leaving young to die in their nests, what does that do to the balance of nature?”
State environmental officials dispute that assertion, saying the hunt falls outside of the period in which squirrels breed and care for their young. Supporters of the slam have long been bewildered by the accusation that they are somehow upsetting the area’s ecology, saying the event is merely a fun way to raise money and promote community bonding.
“Everyone thinks I’m sending 300 people into the woods and slaughtering all the squirrels,” said Dennis Bauer, a hunter who helps organize the event, noting that the slam is not localized, but countywide. If it were harming squirrels, he said, “I wouldn’t do it.”
The dispute also touches on age-old friction between rural and urban mores, with some here grumbling that the conflict was being stoked by downstaters who would not know a Remington from a Rembrandt.
“I think it’s the coolest — Americana in action,” said Jeff Allen, a former logger in Alaska and a local resident who was up early to check out the slam. “And I think this is just a great little thing for upstate New York.”
At the same time, the hunt has also tapped into a broader push by national animal rights groups to stop hunting contests, including those that target animals such as coyotes, pigeons and prairie dogs.
In Albany, state lawmakers have introduced a bill to ban any contest where the goal “is to take the greatest number of wildlife,” though the winners of the squirrel slam receive a small cash prize based on weight, not the number of animals killed. (Slam hunters are limited to five squirrels; the state limit for most species is six a day.)
Still, the New York State director of the Humane Society of the United States, Brian Shapiro, has expressed concern that the slam could cause “the wider community to believe that wildlife is unimportant and killing for a monetary prize is meritorious.”
When the lawsuit was filed in 2015, it was initially dismissed. Then in December, Ms. Sheive won on appeal, and the case was sent back to Orleans County Supreme Court for further review. Arguments there are due on Monday.
One of the slam’s principal opponents has been Richard Brummel, a Long Island resident and grass-roots environmental advocate who has waged a dogged campaign against the event in recent years, citing the State Environmental Quality Review Act to challenge the hunt. He said that his love of squirrels was born from a suburban upbringing and that the animals were “agile,” “industrious” and “very acrobatic.”
“And they are actually somewhat approachable,” he said.
Squirrels are plentiful in New York, according to the State Department of Environmental Conservation, which categorizes three types of squirrels — gray, fox and black — as having “abundant population” and allows them to be hunted in most parts of the state from Sept. 1 to Feb. 28.
Some squirrels, however, are considered nuisances and thus are hunted by humans year round. And many of the squirrels in this neck of the woods fall into that enemy-of-the-people category, said Amethyst McCracken, an avowed pet lover who works at an animal-care office in Holley.
“We have squirrels here the size of cats,” said Ms. McCracken, a licensed veterinary technician. “They do damage. They cause accidents. They chew through power cords, go through drains.”
Like others here, Ms. McCracken said part of the slam’s problem might be branding. “When you hear ‘slam,’ you think about someone taking it and slamming them on the ground,” she said. But whatever the hunt is called, its organizers insist that the animals did not go to waste. Their tails are used to make fishing lures, while much of their meat — a flavor that has been compared to rabbit or, yes, chicken — finds its way into squirrel stew and other foods.
Joey Inthavong, an immigrant from Thailand who lives in Rochester, collects hundreds of squirrels from the slam every year. He insisted the quality of the local squirrels was excellent.
“They live outside, eat apples, like deer, eat good food,” Mr. Inthavong said. “Not like in the city — they eat garbage.”
Lawyers for Ms. Sheive, who declined to comment, said it was not clear how many squirrels were killed during the slam. They are seeking to stop the event until the effect of the “large number of squirrels killed in a small geographic area in a short span of time” is determined, said Ross M. Kramer, a partner at Winston & Strawn, a Park Avenue law firm in Manhattan.
Regardless of the looming legal action, the slam proceeded on Saturday, though without the Holley Fire Department after previous protests. Kevin Dann, the fire chief, said his company was “100 percent uninvolved.”
“People in New York City don’t like that we hunt up here,” he said.
Instead, the event was transferred to an Elks Lodge in Brockport, a college town on the Erie Canal, about 20 miles west of Rochester. Most of the participants were experienced hunters — rifles and high-powered pellet guns being the weapons of choice — and had war stories about their nimble prey.
“They’re like little ninjas,” said Brett Jacobson, an avid hunter from Greece, N.Y. He noted that squirrels often scare off deer during that hunting season. “They’re obnoxious,” he said.
All told, New York has more than 500,000 licensed hunters — including 30,000 squirrel hunters. The participants in Saturday’s slam worked in a range of professions, including public-school teachers, salesmen and small-business people. Many chatted amiably in the hall of the Elks Lodge, drinking draft beer and buying raffle tickets.
Mr. Bauer, the hunter who helps organize the event, is a mechanic. He says the event draws all kinds of people — “fathers and daughters, 60-year-old brothers, husbands and wives.” And sure enough, a steady stream of hunters arrived in the late afternoon, bearing boxes and plastic bags full of squirrels.
The squirrels were handed off to a team of women called “squirrel girls,” who weighed them on digital scales as Mr. Bauer recorded weights. The winning team — teenagers from Kendall, N.Y. — brought in the heaviest individual squirrel (nearly two pounds), and five squirrels that weighed more than seven pounds total.
Mr. Bauer said it had been a tough day to hunt, driving rain and wind, but a good day for the slam: All of the money raised — from $10 tickets, raffles and the like — would go to the local Elks, who said they would use it for causes like helping veterans and fighting cerebral palsy.
Many of the hunters said they understood that squirrel hunts may not be for everyone, particularly those in cities, where the animals are more likely to be in a park than your barn.
“It’s a country thing,” said Rich Ezell, 62, who hunted with his son-in-law, adding that the event was for a good cause. “I wouldn’t shoot them just to shoot them.”
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) — This weekend marked the first West Virginia Coyote Hunt. It ran from noon Saturday to noon Sunday, as hunters across the state checked in at Cabela’s in South Charleston, then hunted coyotes for a maximum 24 hour period.
Men and women from across the state, as well as bordering states participated, according to organizers.
Shannon Sizemore of Team Fur Seekers, out of Cincinnati, Ohio, organized the contest. Sizemore is a native of Big Ugly, West Virginia and says his roots run deep here.
“Comraderie and the atmosphere here, it’s phenomenal, I mean this is what I wanted,” he says. Sizemore says his goal was to teach and educate the community that coyotes need to be hunted regularly in order to help control the population, that often preys on a range of animals, including deer, turkey and even household pets.
“With coyotes having no natural predator, it’s a problem. It’s going to take it’s toll if people don’t start hunting them,” he says. “For whoever says this is a blood bath, it’s nothing about going out and killing coyotes this weekend. It’s teaching and learning them what we can do to prevent what’s going to take place in the future if we don’t do this.
Organizers say approximately 500 hunters participated from 135 teams. Approximately 40 coyotes were killed during the 24 hour sporting event, and nearly $11,000 was awarded in prizes.
“It’s about the atmosphere, the camaraderie. Spending time with your family, your friends, your children. That’s what hunting is about,” Sizemore says.
Sizemore says the coyotes would not be disposed of properly and fur will be used.
The Humane Society of West Virginia condemned the contest, referring to it as a “blood bath.” They released a statement saying “Allowing this blood sport to continue gives hunters and wildlife agencies a black eye and sends a dangerous message to our youth that killing is fun. Gratuitously slaughtering animals for thrills and prizes is unethical and out of step with our current understanding of ecosystems and the important role each species plays.”
TARGET: Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners (NBWC)
These contests, involve rewarding people of all ages with cash and other prizes for killing the biggest and most animals being targeted.
These events might seem like a rarity and not many people would participate in, but over 200 such events have taken place across the nation over the past few years, while several have been held targeting coyotes in Nevada.
The goal is to go out and kill as many coyotes as possible and have a party afterwards.
This week, November 2015, wildlife advocates will be urging the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners to stand up for wildlife being targeted by these barbaric events by voting to make them a thing of the past.
If you’re not a Nevada resident, the organizations leading this effort are also asking people to send letters to the commissioners urging them to vote to ban to end these contests forever.
Now we are working to repeat this success in other states and we need your help. This coming Friday our Nevada Representative, Leah Sturgis and other Project Coyote volunteers and supporters will testify before the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commission in support of a petition to end wildlife killing contests statewide. We are mobilizing a grassroots effort to support this petition (you can read more about that effort here). We also have ongoing litigation in Idaho challenging killing contests on public lands.
In most towns it would be considered unthinkably cruel to have a contest where citizens catch and kill an animal with no limit. But in the Southeast two rattlesnake “roundups” still exist where killing wildlife is supposed fun.
The target of the two roundups—in Whigham, Georgia, and Opp, Alabama—is the rare eastern diamondback rattlesnake. Populations of the snake have been so destroyed that, following a Center petition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that these rattlers may need protection as an endangered species.
Take action below: Urge the mayors of Whigham and Opp to convert their roundups into wildlife-friendly festivals where no snakes are killed.
Transform Rattlesnake Roundups Into Humane Festivals
(Photo:Kristian Bell/Getty Images)
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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.
Along with coyotes, weasels, skunks, jackrabbits, raccoons and European starlings, the endangered gray wolf should be weary after the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) granted permits for up to 500 hunters – some even as young as 10 years old – to compete on 3 million acres of land for three days beginning in January 2015 in a bid to see who can kill the most prey.
The competition, officially called the “predator derby,” prompted two lawsuits by environmental groups including Defenders of Wildlife and Wildearth Guardians, asking federal judges to put an end to this killing spree before it even has a chance to start.
“They’re treated like grass that needs to be mowed down,” Suzanne Stone, Idaho spokeswoman for Defenders of Wildlife who has been studying wolves for more than 30 years, told The Guardian.
“This has gone so far above and beyond what most people consider ethical, even hunters,” she added.
Are Wolves More Harmful Than Helpful?
The dispute between western ranchers and wildlife advocates has been an ongoing one the last several years, with little hope in sight of a compromise.
“The whole issue became very polarized,” added Mike Keckler, a spokesman for the Idaho department of fish and game.
Ranchers, particularly those a part of Idaho’s 240,000-head sheep industry, believe that taking out gray wolves is in their right to protect their livestock, as well as prevent competition with humans.
“[They are] a bunch of urbanites who don’t have any clue, don’t have the knowledge and wisdom and experience that we do,” Steve Alder, executive director of Idaho for Wildlife, which organized the derby, said of those opposed to the killings. “They don’t understand our lives, they don’t understand where meat comes from.”
Just last month ranchers in Catron County, N.M. were outraged to find that wolves are setting a record as the main killers of cattle this year. Catron County, which borders eastern Arizona, was one of the first areas where Mexican gray wolves – a subspecies numbering at a mere 83 individuals – were released as part of a recovery effort.
And while that’s all well and good for the wolves, ranchers are a little less than pleased.
“The negative effects to livestock producers caused by Mexican Wolves are a wide spectrum not addressed and/or ignored by the US Fish and Wildlife Service,” wrote Jess Carey, lead author behind a report on the impact of wolves in the area.
Carey also pointed out that over the course of the study, five ranches lost a total of 651 head of cattle valued at more than $382,000.
In another instance, a pack of six wolves roaming in Canada’s Elk Island National Park were killed after cows were “ripped open from one end to the other,” the National Post reported.
Such measures are deemed necessary by livestock owners are others who are trying desperately to protect their animals.
“If something isn’t done in the off-season, there will be next to nobody willing to put cattle back in there next summer, including myself,” added hunter Dan Brown, president of the Blackfoot Grazing Association.
It is pressure from hunters such as Brown that makes the situation of the endangered gray wolves especially prickly. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in recent years has lifted protections for the animals in the western Great Lakes and the Northern Rockies, only to have them reinstated after backlash from wildlife advocates.
Why They Matter
Though they once nearly disappeared from the lower 48 states, today wolves including the gray wolf (Canis lupis) have returned to the Great Lakes, northern Rockies and Southwestern United States.
There are an estimated 7,000 to 11,200 gray wolves in Alaska, 3,700 in the Great Lakes region and 1,675 in the Northern Rockies, according to Defenders of Wildlife.
(Photo : Reuters/Doug Smith/National Park Service) A wolf pack bedded down in Yellowstone National Park in March 2007.
But they weren’t always on an upsurge. These predators may have once spanned a whopping two-thirds of the United States, but by the mid 1930s their numbers dwindled due to hunting and trapping by humans. Not until just recently have they shown signs of recovery, with a lone gray wolf recently spotted at the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the first of its kind seen at the park in decades, offering conservationists a glimmer of hope for this beautiful species.
The comeback can be credited in part to the reintroduction program created in 1995 by the federal government.
Gray wolves actually play a key role in maintaining ecosystems, and aren’t always such a nuisance as many ranchers think. They help keep deer and elk populations in check, which can benefit many other plant and animal species. The carcasses of their prey also help to redistribute nutrients and provide food for other wildlife species, like grizzly bears and scavengers.
For now, gray wolves can be found roaming in the states of Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, with the population in Wyoming recently restored to the endangered species list. In the remaining states, gray wolves are monitored, but federal protection is seen as non-essential, according to the FWS.
Not to Worry
But environmentalists may not even need to worry for the wolves’ wellbeing since Alder doesn’t even expect the derby to encounter wolves. C. lupis like to roam from the tundra to woodlands, forests, grasslands and deserts, so the fact that they travel across long distances may make these elusive animals difficult to catch.
What’s more, these animals aren’t even highest on hunters’ kill list.
“There are very limited numbers of people who go out looking specifically for wolves,” Keckler explained to The Guardian. “A lot of folks are concerned about the hunting of big predators like that, but we also have a very healthy mountain lion population in Idaho. We have a very healthy black bear population and they have been classified as big game just like wolves for many, many years.”
Regardless of this reassurance, environmental groups show no sign of letting up. The BLM has already received more than 56,000 comments after opening the derby plan to the public, only 10 of which were in support of the competition.
In what has to be the one of the most bloodthirsty post-Christmas festivities yet, Idaho’s announced a wolf and coyote slaughter contest for all the family.
And it really does mean “all the family” – children as young as ten can enter the competition being held on the weekend of 28-29 December.
In this celebration of tastelessness and death, prizes will be awarded for such “achievements” as most female coyotes killed, biggest wolf and so on.
Both wolves and coyotes play essential roles in the ecosystem – they are not pests. Wolves actually need increased protection. Even if numbers did need to be reduced, which they don’t, shooting these beautiful animals should only ever be done by professionals. Treating it as family entertainment is ridiculous.
We invite you to vote whether the wolf hunting contest in Idaho be stopped. Please vote and also leave your comments at the bottom of this page.
Should the wolf hunting contest in Idaho be stopped?
(Reuters) – U.S. land managers approved a recreation permit on Thursday allowing a controversial hunting contest open to children to take place on public lands in Idaho, where contestants will seek to kill the most wolves and other wildlife for cash and prizes.
The hunting group Idaho for Wildlife requested the permit for the so-called predator derby to take place each January for five years on millions of acres (hectares) overseen by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in east central Idaho near Salmon.
In granting the permit, the BLM found the event posed “no significant conflicts” in its management of natural resources.
“We are aware of the social controversy regarding the event,” Joe Kraayenbrink, BLM district manager in Idaho Falls, said in a statement. “However, from our analysis, we could not find significant conflicts with other environmental resources that would prohibit the competitive event from occurring.”
Approval of the hunt comes as animal-rights advocates mark an increase in such competitions in Western states including Oregon, New Mexico and California, where wildlife commissioners in December will vote on a proposal to ban such events.
The competition, which targets wolves, coyotes and other quarry and is expected to draw up to 500 hunters annually, is opposed by conservationists as a “killing contest.”
The contest also invites children as young as 10 to pair with an adult to kill animals including jackrabbits, starlings, skunks and weasels for an event promoted as a form of family recreation.
Derby opponents pledged to file suit asking a federal judge to order the BLM to revoke the permit for failing to adequately assess the event’s impacts on the environment and public safety.
“The BLM abdicated its responsibility as steward of our public lands. A cruel and dangerous killing contest has no place on lands held in trust for all Americans,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians.
The BLM received tens of thousands of letters criticizing the event during a public comment period. Fewer than 20 letters favored it.
Steve Adler, head of Idaho for Wildlife, could not immediately be reached for comment but has previously said critics were seeking to restrict gun rights spelled out in the U.S. constitution and tarnish a decades-old hunting tradition in the American West.
“We’re stereotyped as a bunch of Idaho rednecks out to kill as many animals as we can,” he told Reuters last month.
BOISE, Idaho – Defenders of Wildlife will ask the courts to reverse a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decision granting a permit for an Idaho anti-wolf group to hold a predator killing contest annually over the next five years on over 3 million acres of public land in eastern Idaho.
The court challenge will allege that, by allowing the predator derby targeting wolves, coyotes and other predators on public lands around Salmon, ID, BLM has undermined the Northern Rockies wolf recovery program that began in 1995 with reintroduction of wolves in Idaho and other states, and has violated the management standards set in place for potential and designated wilderness within the permit area. Defenders and other conservation groups have asserted that such commercial predator-killing derbies are a reflection of 19th century thinking and hatred towards predators and have no place on federal lands in the 21st century. They also say this persecution of predators flies in the face of modern day science that recognizes the valuable role that predators play in maintaining healthy ecosystems.
BLM received over 100,000 comments from Defenders of Wildlife members and other conservationists, strongly opposing the proposed Idaho wolf derby. But rather than fully assess the proposal through an Environmental Impact Statement as required by federal law, BLM “fast-tracked” its approval and failed to address the many potential adverse impacts from such an event, including impacts on local and regional wolf and other predator populations and on 17 areas specially managed to preserve their wilderness characteristics.
“Commercialized killing contests to slaughter predators are something right out of the 1800s. It’s the same archaic tactic that pushed wolves toward extinction in the first place,” said Suzanne Stone, Idaho resident and Defenders of Wildlife Senior Representative for Rockies and Plains. “These events also show that Idaho’s state-sponsored war on wolves is spreading to federal agencies. By issuing the permit, BLM is reinforcing the belief among local residents that wolves should be treated like unwanted vermin. It is shocking that BLM is willing to embrace the 19th century anti-wildlife tactics that led to the demise of wolves and other native predators across the West.”
“BLM’s action approving the Idaho Wolf Derby on Idaho public lands over the next five years is contrary to the federal government’s commitment to recover gray wolves in the Northern Rockies,” added Laird J. Lucas, Director of Litigation at Advocates for the West, which is representing Defenders in the lawsuit. “Human persecution of gray wolves is the reason why they were listed under the Endangered Species Act more than forty years ago; yet BLM’s action puts the federal government’s stamp of approval on further persecution and anti-wolf sentiment, which is a wrong step for the government to take.”
Defenders will be represented in this case by Laird Lucas and Bryan Hurlbutt of Advocates for the West, a public interest environmental law firm based in Boise, Idaho.
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1.1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @defendersnews.