A ‘Squirrel Slam’ Lures Hunters and Protesters to Western New York

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?”

Photo

Dennis Bauer recorded the weight of squirrels at the hunt on Saturday. Mr. Bauer has helped organize the event for the last 11 years. CreditMike Bradley for The New York Times

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.”

Photo

Amy Prate of Hilton, N.Y., left, and Brian Sams of Palmyra, N.Y., took a selfie at the hunt in Brockport, N.Y., on Saturday. CreditMike Bradley for The New York Times

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.”

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.

Photo

Brett Jacobson of Greece, N.Y., participated in the squirrel hunt. “They’re like little ninjas,” he said.CreditMike Bradley for The New York Times

“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.”

First West Virginia coyote hunt draws hundreds but not without controversy

http://www.wsaz.com/content/news/First-Annual-West-Virginia-Coyote-Hunt-draws-hundreds-412105473.html

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.”

Nevada: It’s Time to End Wildlife Killing Contests–Petition

  • 269 supporters
  • BY: Naomi Dreyer
  • 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.

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/534/908/126/nevada-it%E2%80%99s-time-to-end-wildlife-killing-contests/?taf_id=17909383&cid=fb_na#

Nevada: It’s Time to End Wildlife Killing Contests

End Nevada Killing Contests

from Project Coyote.org

Last year, Project Coyote led a successful effort to close the loopholes that permitted wildlife killing contests in California targeting “furbearing” and “nongame mammals” (coyotes, bobcats, foxes among other species frequently targeted in such contests). On December 4, 2014, the California Fish and Game Commission voted to end this barbaric practice.

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.

Transform Rattlesnake Roundups Into Humane Festivals

https://takeaction.takepart.com/actions/transform-rattlesnake-roundups-into-a-humane-festival?cmpid=action-eml-recurring-snakes

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.

Rattlesnakes play a key role in the food web, especially in terms of rodent control. Because hunters often use gasoline to drive snakes from their dens, roundups are also harmful to hundreds of other species that share the dens as a home.https://takeaction.takepart.com/actions/transform-rattlesnake-roundups-into-a-humane-festival?cmpid=action-eml-recurring-snakes.

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)

Empowered By

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.

Gray Wolf ‘Killfest’ Sparks Controversy

copyrighted Hayden wolf walking

http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/10481/20141119/gray-wolf-killfest-sparks-controversy.htm#ixzz3JdMpSFCT

By Jenna Iacurci

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.

A wolf pack bedded down in Yellowstone National Park in March 2007.

(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.

Read more: http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/10481/20141119/gray-wolf-killfest-sparks-controversy.htm#ixzz3JdMItTPA

POLL: Should the wolf hunting contest in Idaho be stopped?

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?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don’t Know

  http://focusingonwildlife.com/news/poll-should-the-wolf-hunting-contest-in-idaho-be-stopped/

Controversial Idaho wolf CONTEST hunt approved, angering conservationists

SALMON Idaho Thu Nov 13, 2014

(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.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Sandra Maler)

_____

Defenders of Wildlife to Challenge BLM’s First-ever Approval of Wolf Hunting Derby on Public Lands in Idaho

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:

Suzanne Stone: sstone@defenders.org; (208) 861-4655

Laird Lucas:  llucas@advocateswest.org; (208) 342-7024 ext. 209

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.

Wolves Belong to no one but Themselves

One of the hazards of sending a letter to the editor of a newspaper is that the paper generally gets to choose a title for it…, and the title often reflects their attitude on a given issue rather than the writer’s. For example, in this letter, recently published in the Methow Valley News, the paper chose to use game department jargon, rather than quoting what I personally believe about who wolves belong to “…no one but themselves.” Here’s what they came up with for a title:

Wolves belong to everyone

Dear Editor:

I recently attended a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) wolf management hearing to find out how far they ultimately plan to go with wolf hunting, once wolves are inevitably removed from the state’s endangered species list. It turns out the department was only there to talk about a few cases of sheep predation, and the WDFW’s subsequent collusion with aerial snipers from the federal Wildlife “Services” for some good old fashioned lethal removal.

For over 20 years I lived in a cabin well upriver from Twisp, but moved away before the whole poachers’ bloody-wolf-hide-bound-for-Canada fiasco. Since then, I’ve had numerous positive experiences with the wolves themselves. I photographed them in Alaska and Canada as well as in Montana, where I lived a mile from Yellowstone National Park, and got to know the real nature and behavior of wolves.

I’d like to think that if ranchers knew the wolves the way I do, they wouldn’t be so quick to want to kill them off again. Folks shouldn’t have to be reminded that wolves were exterminated once already in all of the lower 48 states, before the species was finally protected as endangered.

Although I personally believe that wolves belong to no one but themselves, to use game department jargon, wolves and other wildlife “belong” to everyone in the state equally — not just the squeakiest-wheel ranchers and hunters. Most of Washington’s residents want to see wolves allowed to live here and don’t agree with the department’s wolf “removal” measures, that no doubt include plans for future hunting seasons on them.

What’s to stop Washington from becoming just like Idaho, Montana and Wyoming in implementing reckless wolf-kill programs that eventually lead to the likes of contest hunts (as in Idaho), or year-round predator seasons that ultimately result in federal re-listing (as in Wyoming)? What guarantee do we have that Washington’s wolves will be treated any differently?

Food for thought: If we don’t speak out now, the next disgusting dump you find deposited along a hiking trail well might belong to a legal wolf hunter.

Jim Robertson

Text and Wildlife Photography©Jim Robertson

Text and Wildlife Photography©Jim Robertson

What’s to Stop Them?

I attended the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) wolf hearing last week to find out how far the WDFW ultimately plans to go with wolf hunting, once wolves are inevitably removed from the state endangered species list, and when Washington residents can expect to hear that hunting groups are holding contest hunts on wolves like our neighbors in Idaho have already done.

It turns out the department wasn’t ready to come clean on their ultimate plans to implement hunting seasons on wolves (starting in Eastern Washington). They were only willing to talk about the few cases of sheep predation (a few dozen out of a flock of 1,800 animals grazing on public forest land), and the WDFW’s collusion with areal snipers from the federal Wildlife “Services” for some good old fashioned lethal removal. Here are some notes on what I was planning to say, had it been on topic:

Over the years spent living in rural Eastern Washington, I’ve gotten to know how ranchers think and feel, and what they’re capable of. For over twenty years I lived in a cabin outside the Okanogan County town of Twisp, where rancher/convicted poacher Bill White is currently under house arrest. Exploiting his then-good standing and local influence to get permission from the WDFW to gather road-killed deer, under the guise of distributing them as meat to members of the Colville tribe, he used some of the deer as bait to lure wolves from the Lookout pack to within shooting distance. He and his son are credited with killing several members of that pack—the first wolves to make it back into Washington. Their sense of entitlement was so overblown they thought they could get away with sending a blood-dripping wolf hide across the Canadian border.

On the plus side, I also have a lot of experiences with wolves themselves. As a wildlife photographer I’ve photographed them in Alaska and Canada as well as in Montana, where I lived a mile away from Yellowstone National Park. I got to know the real nature and behavior of wolves. I’d like to think that if ranchers knew the wolves the way I do, they wouldn’t be so quick to want to kill them off again. I shouldn’t have to remind folks that wolves were exterminated once already in all of the lower 48 states, except Minnesota, which had only six wolves remaining before the species was finally protected as endangered.

Although I personally believe that wolves belong to no one but themselves, to use game department jargon, wolves and other wildlife belong to everyone in the state equally—not just the squeakist-wheel ranchers and hunters. By far most of Washington’s residents want to see wolves allowed to live here and don’t agree with the department’s lethal wolf removal measures (that no doubt include plans for future wolf hunting seasons, which are currently being downplayed by the WDFW).

What’s to stop Washington from becoming just like Idaho, Montana and Wyoming in implementing reckless wolf-kill programs that eventually lead to contest hunts (as in Idaho) and the subsequent decimation of entire packs? Or year-round predator seasons that ultimately result in federal re-listing (as in Wyoming)? What guarantee do we have that Washington’s wolves will be treated any differently?

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson