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Dr Dave Samuel
No Compromise on Wolves
By Dr. Dave Samuel
May 23, 2010 - 12:07:53 PM
 

When it comes to debates over wolves, there is really very little middle ground.  Those in favor of no wolves being killed say they favor management, but their actions reveal a smoke screen.  Delay after delay after delay to efforts to actually implement management and allow wolves and to allow local elk and moose populations to survive. (For more check out the Lobo Watch Column on BHN each month: Lobo Watch.)



In 1995 wolves were first introduced into the Yellowstone ecosystem.  The original goal for wolf numbers in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho was 30 breeding pairs and 300 wolves for three consecutive years.  Then they would be removed from the endangered species list allowing some control.  Sounds simple enough, except that the 30 pairs and 300 wolf goal was reached in 2002, but delisting didn't occur.  In fact, animal rights groups such as the Defenders of Wildlife were fighting it. 

By 2008 there were more than 1,500 wolves and 100 breeding pairs in those three states.  Yet the Defenders of Wildlife and other groups continued to fight to keep them listed as an endangered species.   In fact, reports indicate that Defenders want over 2000 wolves in that area.  At least that is now.  Who knows what numbers they will ask for once the wolf population gets to 2000.  It's a moving target.   


Meanwhile in some local areas, elk and moose were suffering as were elk outfitters.  Montana Fish and Game data shows that moose numbers in Yellowstone have dropped significantly.  The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation cites data showing that elk numbers in Gallatin Canyon have dropped from 1,048 to 338.  The Madison Firehole herd trend count went from 700 to 108 in 2008.  Wolf and grizzly predation has elk calf survival in these areas down to 10 percent.  That is an unsustainable number. After much political wrangling and court delays, in late March 2008, wolves were finally removed from the endangered species list.   

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has taken an honorable approach in dealing with the politics of managing elk where there are wolves.  They've been professional in their dealings with state wildlife agencies and with groups who do not want wolves managed.  But they now realize that the Defenders of Wildlife doesn't really want to compromise where wolves are concerned. 

Almost certainly their push to again get the wolf listed as an endangered species is a big money maker for them.  It probably attracts huge donations from supporters from eastern big cities.   

One common animal rights tactic when talking to folks against killing animals is to say that habitat loss is the real problem.  That argument is used whether you are talking about elk, moose, or even whitetails.  And to a degree, they are right.  Habitat loss is a major problem in this country, and in most countries.  However, that doesn't change the fact that we need to manage wolves.  In fact, if elk, deer, moose, bighorn sheep, etc. are suffering due to habitat loss, then predator management becomes even more important if you want predators and prey to survive.  

In response to the Defenders of Wildlife approach to the wolf situation, where they continue to push to get wolves back on the endangered species list in certain parts of the country when wolves are clearly not endangered, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation went public with a straight-forward letter outlining Defender policies and strategies.  That April 8 letter, available on the RMEF website, is worth reading.  It clearly outlines why you just cannot compromise with animal rights groups. 

Putting wolves back on the endangered species list in the Northwestern United States is a joke, a travesty, and is being pushed by a value system of folks who have only a shallow appreciation for wildlife management and predator-prey relations.  Wolves in that region are not an endangered species, and under the current management scheme and the millions of dollars spent by state and federal wildlife agencies to do their job, the wolf will not become endangered.  In fact, under the current harvest rates of wolf populations in those three states, will continue to grow.  

Truth is, when dealing with animal rights groups and a value system that does not appreciate the need for or the importance of hunting and wildlife management, you just cannot compromise.  

For more check out the Lobo Watch Column on BHN each month: Lobo Watch
 

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