Wolf Debate Never Ends

Last May I warned you that no matter what happens, the wolf debate will go on and on. So, when wolves were finally removed from the endangered species list, and the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming were given a chance to manage wolves for everyone, so that we could have good populations of elk and moose, so that ranchers could still raise cattle and sheep with only small loses to wolves, and so that we could still have some wolves for the public to enjoy, hunting some wolves could begin.

Sorry for that last run-on sentence, but it typifies the run-on wolf situation in the Northern Rockies. Just when you think some rational decisions were finally made in the courts, decisions that would allow wolves and wildlife and agriculture to co-exist, the anti wolfers go to court once again, and the courts mismanage the situation once again. What has just happened (I’m writing this on August 7) is that the courts have ruled to again put the wolves back on the endangered species list. The decision obviously has nothing to do with wolves being endangered, for indeed they are not.


The decision obviously has nothing to do with the agreement reached when wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone. That agreement stated that when wolf numbers and pack numbers reached a certain level, management of the wolves could take place. Those numbers were reached in 2002, but the anti wolfers pushed on, and tied management up in the courts until last spring, when the states were finally allowed to hunt some wolves and the wolf was removed from the endangered species list. I warned you then and I reiterate that now, and will do so in the future no matter what happens that looks positive for wolf management . . . the debate will never end.

It is not about wolf management. It is about no killing of wolves; not now, not ever. And the general public gets its information from the press and the press, in general, doesn’t want any wolves killed. And so, the courts have now said that you can’t hunt wolves in Idaho and Montana, because Wyoming still hasn’t come up with an approved harvest plan for wolves. Apparently, it’s like a school teacher saying that if one kid breaks a rule, everyone will have to be punished. The court is saying that the wolf population in those three states is just one big population, so if you can’t manage them in Wyoming, then you can’t do it in Idaho and Montana.

That’s a most interesting ruling considering that we manage some wildlife species differently in different states. You can hunt sandhill cranes in some states, but not others. Same with tundra swans, narwhale for Inuits, etc. There are even subspecies of Canada geese that are legal in one state and not legal in another. In 1984 Texas started harvesting alligators, but they were not removed from the endangered species list nationwide until 1987.

Note, again, reclassifying the wolf in the Northwest as an endangered species has nothing to do with biology and everything to do with politics. And the political slant in this country right now says, do not shoot any wolves for any reason. There are data showing that elk have changed their behavior because of wolves, and in some areas, recruitment of elk is below what is needed to keep numbers stable (meaning elk numbers are dropping because of predation—wolves and bear and lions—and that will continue). No matter that people are out-of-work because of this. No matter that guides, cooks, motels, etc. are losing revenues and jobs, and no matter that politics is making the decisions. In Washington, in the present administration, and with the public, that is what is wanted, and so that is what has happened. Wolves are again deemed to be endangered.

There are thousands of wolves . . . thousands. And the numbers are increasing. Even with the hunts they had in Idaho and Montana, their numbers are increasing too. Yet, the wolf is now listed as “endangered.”

Today, Senator Baucus from Montana stated that he would introduce a bill that would remove the wolf from the endangered species list so that management in Montana could continue. That is supposed to happen in September (remember, I’m writing this on August 7). The Rocky Mt Elk Foundation continues to be a major player in this. And the group, Big Game Forever (ck out their website and join that group) is trying to coordinate wolf management everywhere we have wolf management problems.

We need these organizations, because groups such as the Defenders of Wildlife will never go away on this issue. Some of these groups now want 5,000 wolves in the Northern Rockies before they come off the endangered species list. Just be aware, and let people know, that once we get to 5,000, their position on removing wolves from the endangered species list will not change. The numbers do not mean a thing. Saving the wolves has become one of the most lucrative fund-raising causes in modern environmental history. The debate continues. That is why pro-management forces need to get organized at the state level and keep the pressure on. Given today’s political climate, it’s going to be oh so hard to do.

For more on this issue be sure and read: Lobo Watch