Time to end the era of aerial gunning of wolves

http://blog.humanesociety.org/wayne/2017/02/time-end-era-aerial-gunning-wolves.html

Time to end the era of aerial gunning of wolves

by Wayne Pacelle

February 9, 2017 

One of the most despicable acts against animals in contemporary times is the aerial gunning of wildlife – chasing down these animals in aircraft and then strafing them with bullets, mainly as a way to wipe out local populations and artificially boost populations of moose and caribou for hunters to shoot at a later time. It’s not only a scrambling of intact ecological systems, but it is barbaric, and it’s been sanctioned by some Alaska politicians and their appointees at the Board of Game in Alaska for years, even though voters in the state time and time again have tried to ban it by ballot initiative.

In 2015 and 2016, the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said “not on our lands,” and adopted rules to forbid aerial scouting, landing, and then shooting of wolves and grizzly bears; killing of hibernating black bear mothers with cubs; and denning of predators on national preserves and national wildlife refuges. It was a long overdue pair of policies, and broadly supported by so many Alaskans and by people throughout the nation.

Now these rules are facing a double-barreled attack – in the federal courts and in Congress.

The HSUS joined several national and local conservation groups this week to challenge an attempt by trophy hunting interests to reopen some of the cruelest hunting practices on federal lands in Alaska. Lawsuits filed last month by the state of Alaska and Safari Club International seek to nix the regulations. And next week, in the U.S. House of Representatives, Alaska’s sole Congressman, Don Young, will offer a resolution to strike the rule, under a law known as the Congressional Review Act. The CRA allows Congress, by simple majorities in the House and Senate and with the signature of the president, to strike any recent rule of the prior administration in the first few months of a new Congress.

These are our federal lands, and the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are the primary managers. Those attacking these rules are attacking the professional wildlife managers who developed these policies on the ground in Alaska. At field hearings conducted in the run-up to the final rulemaking actions, significant numbers of Alaskans testified in favor of adopting the rules. It’s false framing for Rep. Young and anyone else to say Alaskans oppose these rules and support these unsporting and barbaric practices. In fact, voters have put the issues of aerial gunning of wolves on the ballot three times, and passed two of the measures (still lawmakers, violating the wishes of their own constituents, overturned those laws).

Congress created national wildlife refuges and national preserves so people can enjoy these magical places, but also to allow wildlife to thrive. We now know too much about wolves and grizzly bears to treat them like a curse and to try to decimate them. They play an essential role in balancing ecosystems, and have a cascade effect to benefit species up and down the food chain and even to help forest and stream health. It also is a proven truth that wolves and grizzly bears are the biggest draws for tourists who trek to Alaska and spend over $2 billion annually to see these creatures in their native habitats. Wildlife-based tourism creates thousands of jobs and commerce for Alaska – particularly for rural gateway communities. The FWS has reported that, in Alaska, wildlife watchers number 640,000 compared to 125,000 hunters and spend five times more ($2 billion) than hunters ($425 million) for wildlife recreational opportunities.

The state officials who brought these lawsuits, and the federal lawmakers from Alaska who are pushing their resolutions to repeal these new federal rules, are working against the economic interests of their state in advocating for more killing and maiming of wolves and grizzly bears. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service were right to draw a line and say these activities cannot occur on federal lands set aside for wildlife. Wolves and bears are the best ambassadors for these land holdings, and no one has to pay them a dime or provide an ounce of food or a drop of water. They just need to be left alone.

But those rules are in jeopardy unless you act. Contact your federal lawmakers and urge opposition to the Young CRA joint resolution (H.J. Res. 69) and a similar effort in the Senate, advanced by Alaska Sens. Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski (S.J. Res. 18).

It’s time to raise your voice if we want to ground the aerial gunships revving up to kill wildlife on some of America’s most extraordinary wild lands and ecosystems.

Death Threats Prompt Move To Withhold Personal Information From Wolf Management Documents

http://kuow.org/post/death-threats-prompt-move-withhold-personal-information-wolf-management-documents

FEB 2, 2017

A bill in a committee of the Washington House of Representatives would exempt some personal information relating to the state’s wolf management efforts from public disclosure.

Supporters say it will keep those who work directly with wolves safe. Opponents are concerned about the loss of transparency.

Whether you like wolves or not, the folks who come in contact with them aren’t necessarily threatened by the top carnivore, but recently, they have stopped feeling safe.

On one end of that are the people who work for the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Shortly after they started shooting wolves from the Profanity Peak pack in Northeastern Washington last summer, Donny Martorello said he decided to put his family up in a hotel.

“I’m a biologist, I’m a manager, a wolf manager,” Martorello said. “I don’t carry a gun, I’m not law enforcement, and I did sign up for the job but my family did not.”

Martorello is in charge of Washington’s wolf policy. During a hearing, he told members of the Committee on State Government, Elections and Information Technology that he and colleagues received death threats, harassing phone calls and messages.

And he said it doesn’t just happen to him and his colleagues. He said some ranchers–or “livestock producers” have reported having their photos taken and their homes stalked.

“There are producers out there that I have spoken with personally that believe that they are having interactions where wolves are attacking their livestock and they are fearful of coming to the department for reasons that we just talked about,” Martorello said.

By the 1930s there were no wolves left in Washington state. People got used to that. In 2005, the state started receiving reliable reports of their return. Under a new policy implemented last year, managers can lethally remove wolves after four confirmed reports of wolf-killed livestock or pets.

That’s exactly what happened last summer.

A news story about the efforts to lethally remove the wolves prompted state Rep. Joel Kretz, a Republican from Okanogan County, to co-sponsor House Bill 1465, which would amend state law to exempt personal information for anyone connected to a report of a wolf or a wolf-kill from public disclosure.

“The big problem that we’re trying to get out here is that the people, whose animals were attacked were named,” Kretz said. “They were on the front page of the Seattle Times with not only their address but their personal phone number, instantly getting hit with death threats nonstop.”

The newspaper did name a livestock producer and describe the general location of his ranch. News industry representatives said at the hearing that the story was linked to supporting documents at the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website. They said that’s where ranchers’ personal information could be found. They also said the link was later removed.

Roland Thompson is the executive director for the Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington. He agrees that anyone who files a report about a problem wolf should not be intimidated.

“It’s the rest of this information that we’re paying good money to have done – the identities of the people of the agency that are working on this, they are in essence law enforcement, they are armed and they are moving about the landscape and they are acting on policies that are set by the legislature and implemented by the Department of Fish and Wildlife and we need to know who those people are and what their actions are that they are taking,” Thompson said.

Democratic state Rep. Sherry Appleton of the Kitsap Peninsula argued the bill proposal might go about protecting sensitive information in the wrong way.

“if it’s the threat and the harassment that we are talking about with this bill, then I think we should do legislation to prohibit fish and wildlife from releasing the names and numbers and addresses,” Appleton said.

In other words, she said legislation should keep private phone numbers and addresses private, but it should not limit what we can know about what public employees do on public land.

The committee is now scheduled to decide whether to advance the bill to the House for consideration.

Copyright 2017 NWNews

First ‘official’ wolf kill confirmed on Colville Reservation

First wolf kill on Colville Reservation

First wolf kill on Colville Reservation

November 21, 2016 9:21 am | Updated: 1:15 pm, Mon Nov 21, 2016.

NESPELEM—After three hunting seasons without harvesting a wolf, a Colville Tribal member has taken the first.

Duane Hall, 37 of Omak, brought a gray wolf into the Colville Tribal Fish & Wildlife office for sealing on Friday, CTFW confirmed Monday.

Just three of the estimated 18 to 20 wolves—spread out among at least three packs—are allowed to be taken, per CTFW’s predator hunting regulations.

“I didn’t really have a reaction,” CTFW director Randall Friedlander said.

Hunting group Rez Bucks, Bulls & Predators, operated by tribal member Sean Gorr, published the news on Nov. 17 at 12:45 p.m.

A share to Tribal Tribune’s Facebook was met with mixed reviews.

“Terrible,” tribal member Lorin Hutton said.

“Nice kill,” tribal member Ted Piccolo added.

“Wildlife management is a must,” Gorr stated in the conversation. “Predator control is a must. Regulated hunting seasons is a must. All that needs to happen to sustain enough big game to feed our families for generations.”

Wolf hunting season started Aug. 1 and ends Feb. 28. Three known packs exist on the Colville Reservation: The Strawberry, the Whitestone and the Nc’icn. A collared wolf was accidentally slain on the Colville Reservation during a recapturing effort by CTFW in January 2015.

Friedlander said the amount of wolves harvested—by way of rifle or trap hunting—are determined by the number of wolves.

“We try to manage for the total population,” he said, “and that’s why we allow three per year. That’s based on a percentage of the overall population (of wolves).”

He reiterated the right to hunt is an ancestral right.

“We try to create opportunities for tribal members to practice their traditional, cultural way of life,” Friedlander said. “That includes the harvesting of some predators for some tribal members. Not all tribal members harvest predators, but some do.”

In May, CTFW reduced the number of wolves that could be taken from 12 to three each season, but allowed traps to be used for the first time.

Last month, a Washington wolf from the Huckleberry Pack, which was thought to range from the Spokane Reservation north, was killed after a 700-mile trek from Washington to Idaho, Canada and then central Montana.

The Tribune has reached out to Hall for an interview.

http://www.tribaltribune.com/news/article_fc9452fc-b00e-11e6-9e94-3f2bece5e94b.html

MONTANA WOLF HUNT NUMBERS SHOW SLIGHT INCREASE

 Nov 29, 2016

MISSOULA –

Although big game hunting season has ended in Montana, the wolf hunting season continues.

Through the end of the general deer and elk season on Nov. 27, hunters in Northwest Montana FWP Region One have taken 34 wolves. The statewide total sits at 106 wolves taken, up slightly from last year at the end of the general deer and elk season.

The wolf hunting season continues until March 15. Hunters can still purchase a wolf hunting license, but there is a 24-hour waiting period before it is valid.  Wolf trapping begins on December 15. 

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials point out the wolf trappers must purchase a furbearer trapping license and have completed the wolf trapping certification course to trap wolves. 

The bag limit is five wolves per hunter/trapper in any combination of hunting or trapping. FWP reports that 210 wolves were taken in 2015.

Click here for more information about the wolf hunt in Montana.

 
(MTN News file photo)

MICHIGAN WOLVES STAY PROTECTED

http://www.gohunt.com/read/news/michigan-wolves-stay-protected

 

Wolf in snow
Photo credits: Shutterstock

Michigan’s wolf hunting law was ruled unconstitutional by the Michigan Court of Appeals last week. This ruling means that the 2014 law that previously permitted wolf hunting within the state (should the animals ever be officially delisted from Michigan’s Endangered Species List) is no longer valid.

Gray wolves have managed to maintain a sustainable number within the state despite the first and only wolf hunt held in late 2013 where 23 wolves were killed; there are approximately 3,700 wolves in the Western Great Lakes population and 630 of them reside in Michigan, according to MLive.com. Last week’s decision was met with great approval by the group Keep Michigan Wolves Protected (KMWP) that had argued that the hunting law was misleading and the language stressed to those asked to sign in support promoted free licenses for veterans and protection against invasive species. KMWP say that signers did not know that wolf hunting was part of the package.

Because of the way the law was promoted, the judges on the panel agreed with KMWP, writing that “we cannot presume that the Legislature would have passed PA 281 without the provision allowing free hunting, trapping, and fishing licenses for active members of the military.” Misleading language in a law is good cause for termination of the entire law and the rationale behind labeling the act as unconstitutional.

“We are delighted the court has rejected the legislature’s outrageous attempt to subvert the will of the people of Michigan, and declared unconstitutional the legislature’s attempt to force a wolf hunt,” KMWP director Jill Fritz told MLive.com. “This ruling restores the people’s decision, in two statewide votes, overwhelmingly rejecting the trophy hunting and commercial trapping of the state’s small population of wolves.”

KMWP supports the downsizing of wolves, which would allow for lethal removal of problem animals without an open hunting season. Current protections only allow for killing a wolf if it attacks a human.

Hunting stops growth in Idaho’s wolf population

Sean Ellis

Capital Press

Published on November 28, 2016 11:49AM

A gray wolf. Idaho’s minimum, documented wolf population has been on a steady decline since the state began allowing hunters to kill the animals.

COURTESY U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE
A gray wolf. Idaho’s minimum, documented wolf population has been on a steady decline since the state began allowing hunters to kill the animals.


BOISE — As hunting is resulting in a slow but steady decline of Idaho’s wolf population, a Boise State University poll taken earlier this year showed strong statewide support for the hunting of wolves.

Idaho’s minimum, documented wolf population has been on a steady decline since the state began allowing hunters to kill the animals.

It peaked at 856 in 2009, the first year Idaho allowed hunters to take wolves, before a lawsuit that resulted in the animals being put back on the endangered species list halted that hunting season.

Since wolves were permanently delisted and hunting resumed in 2011, the population has slowly declined and was 786 at the end of 2015.

“The overall wolf population has stabilized since state management [and hunting] began in 2011,” said Idaho Department of Fish and Game spokesman Mike Keckler. “That’s when that 30-40 percent population increase we were seeing annually stopped.”

A poll taken in January shows support for the hunts.

“Our … survey showed it’s not popular to be a wolf in Idaho,” said Corey Cook, dean of BSU’s School of Public Service, which conducted the poll. “People didn’t express a lot of support for wolves.”

The phone survey of 1,000 Idahoans was conducted in all regions of the state and the results — strong support for wolf hunting — were the same.

The poll results showed that 72 percent of people surveyed supported wolf hunting while 22 percent opposed it.

Fifty-one percent of respondents strongly supported wolf hunting compared with 13 percent who strongly opposed it.

Even in Boise, Idaho’s main urban area, 64 percent of respondents favored allowing hunters to take wolves while 28 percent opposed that.

The poll results show that Idahoans understand hunting is an important wolf management tool, said Idaho Farm Bureau Federation spokesman John Thompson.

“It certainly is a good thing to hear,” he said. “You certainly wouldn’t expect to find that (support) in some of the other states that wolves are moving into.”

After wolves were re-introduced into Idaho in 1994 and 1995, the animal’s population grew rapidly, expanding at a rate of 30-40 percent annually.

Hunting has stopped that growth.

“We’re getting over the honeymoon period (and) people see hunting as a good tool in the management toolbox,” Thompson said.

While wolf hunting has been successful in controlling the animal’s population in Idaho, IDFG numbers show that wolves are getting smarter when it comes to avoiding hunters.

During the 2010-2011 hunting season, Idaho’s first full year of wolf hunting, 181 wolves were killed by hunters. That number rose to 376 the next year but has declined each year since then, to 319 and then 303 and 249 last year.

So far this season, 154 wolves have been killed by hunters in Idaho.

When it came to state efforts to reduce the wolf population, support was solid but a little less favorable than for hunting.

When told that Idaho lawmakers approved spending $400,000 annually to reduce the state’s wolf population, 56 percent of people surveyed supported state efforts while 38 percent opposed them.

Wolf population in Washington continues to grow

freewallpapersdotcom golden-wolf

http://www.maplevalleyreporter.com/news/372191731.html

Washington state’s wolf population continued to grow last year and added at least four new packs, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) annual survey. By the end of 2015, the state was home to at least 90 wolves, 18 packs, and eight breeding pairs.

The recently completed survey shows the minimum number of wolves grew by 32 percent last year, despite the deaths of at least seven wolves from various causes. Since 2008, when WDFW documented just one pack and five wolves, the population has increased by an average of 36 percent per year.

“Wolf populations in Washington are steadily increasing, just as we’ve seen in the upper Midwest and Rocky Mountain states,” said WDFW Director Jim Unsworth. “This increase – and the wolves’ concentration in northeast Washington – underscores the importance of collaboration between our department, livestock producers, and local residents to prevent conflict between wolves and domestic animals.”

Donny Martorello, WDFW wolf policy lead, said the new Beaver Creek, Loup Loup, Skookum, and Stranger packs were confirmed in Ferry, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, and Stevens counties, respectively.

However, researchers found no evidence of the previously documented Wenatchee Pack, and the Diamond Pack shifted its activity to Idaho and is no longer included in Washington state totals.

Martorello said the minimum number of breeding pairs in Washington increased from five to eight – the first increase since 2011.

WDFW conducted the research using aerial surveys, remote cameras, wolf tracks, and signals from 22 radio-collared wolves from 13 different packs. Twelve wolves were fitted with radio collars during the year, while one pup was marked and released without a collar due to its small size.

Despite their growing numbers, wolves were involved in fewer conflicts with livestock than in 2014. Martorello said the department determined wolves from four packs were responsible for killing a total of seven cattle and injuring one guard dog.

Three of the seven wolves that died in 2015 were killed legally by hunters on the reservation of the Spokane Tribe of Indians, which authorized the harvest up to six wolves per year by tribal members. The four other deaths included one wolf killed in a collision with a vehicle, one shot in self-defense by a property owner, and one that died during an attempt to capture it. One wolf’s cause of death is unknown.

Unsworth said WDFW took several steps in 2015 to expand public involvement in wolf conservation and management. He said the most important actions were doubling the size of the department’s Wolf Advisory Group to 18 members, and initiating a “conflict transformation” process to improve working relationships among the members and the groups they represent and the department.

Martorello said WDFW will continue to emphasize the importance of preventive actions to minimize wolf attacks on livestock and domestic animals. For example, WDFW wildlife conflict specialists are available to work with residents of communities where wolves are present.

WDFW has also adopted a “range rider” program to provide an increased human presence in grazing areas. WDFW continues to offer cost-sharing agreements for ranchers through a program designed to help them reduce their expenses for preventive measures.

Gray wolves, all but eliminated from western states in the last century, are protected under Washington law throughout the state and under federal law in the western two-thirds of the state.

Because of the difficulty of confirming the presence of every single wolf, survey results are expressed in terms of the minimum number of individuals, packs, and breeding pairs. The state Wolf Conservation and Management Plan defines a pack as two or more wolves traveling together in winter and a successful breeding pair as an adult male and female with at least two pups that survive to the end of the calendar year.

Under the state management plan, wolves can be removed from the state endangered species list once 15 successful breeding pairs are documented for three consecutive years among the three designated wolf-recovery regions.

WDFW’s complete wolf survey for 2015 will be available by the end of March on the department’s website: (http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/).

Groups sue to halt hunting at Grand Teton

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Environmental groups filed a pair of federal lawsuits on Wednesday to stop hunting that is now allowed on hundreds of acres within Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and has claimed three bison.

The National Parks Conservation Association and Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife and Wyoming Wildlife Advocates claimed in the lawsuits other species could be hunted.

Hunting generally isn’t allowed in national parks, though Grand Teton for decades has hosted an annual elk hunt in coordination with state wildlife officials.

The hunt — formally known as an elk reduction program — was part of a state-federal compromise that enabled the park to be established in its current boundaries in 1950.

A 2014 agreement between Grand Teton and Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials improperly allows hunting dozens of species on private and state land within Grand Teton, the groups claim.

The groups worry that grizzly bears and wolves could soon be targeted by hunters if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife succeeds in removing the animals from federal protection as threatened and endangered species.

“For more than 65 years, the National Park Service rightfully and lawfully exercised authority to protect all park wildlife,” said Sharon Mader, Grand Teton program manager for the NPCA. “It should continue to do so moving forward.”

Interior Department spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw declined to comment, citing agency policy on pending litigation.

The lawsuits involve dozens of parcels of state and private land called inholdings located within the park. National park land completely surrounds most inholdings, which total well under 1 percent of Grand Teton’s 485 square miles.

Significant inholdings include two state parcels, each measuring a square mile, and a pair of relatively small ranches of 450 and 120 acres.

National Park Service and state officials began discussing whether federal or state laws would be enforced on Grand Teton inholdings after a wolf was shot on a private inholding in the park in 2014.

Federal prosecutors declined to charge the shooter, finding that park officials had erred in determining that federal wildlife law for national parks took precedence on the private land.

Park officials agreed later that year that state law would take precedence on all inholdings. The four environmental groups are contesting that agreement with the lawsuits.

“Wildlife obviously don’t pay attention to title records and move around on all of those parcels,” said Tim Preso, an Earthjustice attorney representing Defenders of Wildlife and Wyoming Wildlife Advocates. “You cannot maintain the park, the integrity of the park as a preserve for wildlife protection, when you have these islands where wildlife can be killed.”

The number of Grand Teton inholdings dwindled after decades of buyouts by the National Park Service. Wyoming officials have been trying for years, with limited success, to get the Interior Department to acquire all remaining state inholdings.

The last two inholdings, together worth perhaps $100 million, command prime views of the Teton Range. In 2010, Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal threatened to sell to the highest bidder if the federal government didn’t get serious about taking them off the state’s hands.

Recent negotiations between state and federal officials have focused on possibly trading the sections for federal land and mineral rights elsewhere in Wyoming

Wolf advocates warn U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of coming lawsuit

http://missoulian.com/news/local/wolf-advocates-warn-fws-of-coming-lawsuit/article_76c1e772-ce25-55bc-9269-272cfd222e1a.html

 

A coalition of wolf advocates has warned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that they plan to sue if the agency doesn’t extend its supervision of wolf populations in Montana and Idaho another five years.

“When the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is offering five tags to every wolf hunter and Idaho Fish and Game is putting sharpshooters in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness and funding aerial gunning in the Lolo Zone, we feel renewing another five years of federal monitoring is warranted,” said Matthew Koehler of Missoula-based Wild West Institute, one of five groups putting FWS on notice. “Given the situation on the ground and the ways state policy is changing, we think the prudent thing to do is keep monitoring wolf populations so they’re not hunted and trapped back to the brink of extinction.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project, Friends of the Clearwater and Cascadia Wildlands joined Wild West Institute in the notice. By law, groups objecting to a federal agency must give it 60 days advance warning to offer time to craft a solution before going to court.

Gray wolves were extirpated from the continental U.S. in early 20th century. The Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduced wolves in remote areas of Idaho and Yellowstone National Park in 1994 and 1995. The wolves were protected under the federal Endangered Species Act until 2011, when Congress passed a provision removing their listed status in Idaho and Montana. However, FWS personnel were required to monitor wolf populations for five years after giving state wildlife agencies local control of the species.

Wolves remain a federally protected species in Wyoming, Washington, Oregon and the Great Lakes region. Congress is considering several provisions to change or remove those protections this year.

In early January, Idaho Department of Fish and Game workers improperly collared two wolves in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness along the Montana border while carrying out a helicopter-assisted elk-collaring project. The agency reported the incident to the U.S. Forest Service, which suspended Idaho’s permission for further helicopter work in the wilderness pending a review of the state’s practices.

Idaho has also maintained a state-sponsored wolf-removal program in addition to a public wolf hunting season.

In Montana, resident hunters may buy up to five wolf licenses a season for $19 each. The state removed its annual quotas on wolf seasons in 2012.