US government could drive grey wolf to extinction… By Michelle Nijhuis, OnEarth.org

gray wolf USFWS

February 15, 2014

A great article that shines a light on the “shaky  science USFWS is using to justify a national delisting of gray wolves, which could push them into a second extermination.

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Friday, Feb 14, 2014 06:00 AM MST

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is relying on shaky science to remove the animal from the endangered species list

, OnEarth.org

About 300 wolves live in the nearly 2-million-acre swath of central Ontario forest known as Algonquin Provincial Park. These wolves are bigger and broader than coyotes, but noticeably smaller than the gray wolves of Yellowstone. So how do they fit into the wolf family tree? Scientists don’t agree on the answer—yet it could now affect the fate of every wolf in the United States.

That’s because last June, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing gray wolves across most of the country from the endangered species list, a move that would leave the animals vulnerable to hunting. To support its proposal, the agency used a contested scientific paper—published, despite critical peer review, in the agency’s own journal—to argue that gray wolves never existed in the eastern United States, so they shouldn’t have been protected there in the first place.

Instead of the gray wolf, the service said, an entirely different species of wolf—the so-called “eastern wolf,” a species whose remnants perhaps survive in Algonquin Park—once inhabited the forests of eastern North America. Canid biologists have argued over the existence of this “lost species” for years. Yet researchers on all sides say that even if the Algonquin wolves are a separate species, that shouldn’t preclude continuing protections for the gray wolf.

On Friday, an independent panel of five leading geneticists and taxonomists came down hard on the agency’s proposal to delist gray wolves, unanimously concluding that the service had not relied on the “best available science.” Individual panel members described “glaring insufficiencies” in the supporting research and said the agency’s conclusions had fundamental flaws.

“What’s most significant,” says Andrew Wetzler, director of land and wildlife programs for the Natural Resources Defense Council (which publishes OnEarth), “is that this is coming from a group of eminent biologists who disagree with each other about the eastern wolf—and even so, they agree that the agency hasn’t properly understood the scientific issues at hand.”

How did 300 wolves in the Canadian wilderness become central to the debate over protecting their U.S. relations? For years, the Algonquin Park wolves have been something of a scientific mystery. Their coats are typically multicolored, with reddish-brown muzzles and backs that shade from white to black. Visitors from the southeastern U.S. often note their resemblance to red wolves, which are limited to a small reintroduced population in eastern North Carolina.

As biologists began to investigate the relationships among the various North American canids, including Algonquin wolves, red wolves, coyotes, and gray wolves, they collided with one of the most basic—and vexing—questions in their field: what is a species?

“No one definition has as yet satisfied all naturalists,” Charles Darwin himself conceded in On the Origin of Species, adding that “every naturalist knows vaguely what he means when he speaks of a species.” So do the rest of us. We know that hippos are different from canaries, and that bullfrogs are different from giant salamanders. But the more alike the organisms, the trickier the species question becomes, and thanks to our modern understanding of DNA, the scientific disagreements are—if anything—more passionate today than in Darwin’s time.

In 1942, the biologist Ernst Mayr formalized the definition of a species as a group of interbreeding organisms, reproductively isolated from other interbreeding groups. That’s the definition that most of us learned in high-school biology, and it remains useful in many cases. But the advent of cheap, fast DNA analysis has exposed its limits: many apparently distinct species hybridize with one another, and few animals hybridize more enthusiastically than wolves, dogs, and other canids.

Genetic samples from the Algonquin Park wolves contain what appears to be coyote DNA, gray wolf DNA, and even domestic dog DNA, creating what Paul Wilson of Trent University in Ontario, one of the first scientists to study the Algonquin Park population, calls a “canid soup” of genetic material.

Biologists studying North American canids fall generally into two camps. Wilson and several of his colleagues in Canada support what’s sometimes called the “three-species” model: according to their interpretation of the genetic data, coyotes, modern gray wolves, and the eastern wolf are separate species that evolved long ago from an ancient common ancestor. The eastern wolf, they say, may have once ranged throughout eastern North America, and may in fact be the same species as the red wolf.

Other biologists, including canid geneticist Robert Wayne at the University of California-Los Angeles, support a “two-species” model: it posits that only gray wolves and coyotes are distinct species. According to this model, anything else—a red wolf, Algonquin wolf, or the so-called “coywolf” recently spotted in suburbs and cities—is a relatively recent wolf-coyote hybrid.

Wayne describes the debate between supporters of the two models as “long-running but very polite”—and it’s not over yet.

“People on all sides have done some very good work, but it’s an extremely complicated issue,” says T. DeLene Beeland, author of The Secret World of Red Wolves. “It gets at the heart of the species question.”

* * *

Were it not for the U.S. Endangered Species Act, the controversy over the eastern wolf might well have stayed polite. That landmark law is, as it states, intended to protect species, and the murky definition of a species has complicated conservation efforts for jumping mice, pygmy owls, gnatcatchers, pocket gophers, and several other animals. But the debate over wolf taxonomy has become especially fierce.

When the gray wolf was placed on the endangered species list in 1967, it was defined as a single species with a historic range that covered most of the United States, from Florida to Washington state. Hunting, trapping, poisoning, and habitat loss had driven the gray wolf nearly to extinction in the continental United States, and confirmed sightings were rare.

After the species was protected, wolves from western Canada began to venture south, and beginning in 1995, some 41 wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park. They multiplied rapidly, and for the first time in decades, wolf howls were heard in the park. Today, many consider the Yellowstone wolf reintroduction one of American conservation’s greatest success stories.

In 2011, the Fish and Wildlife Service took the Great Lakes wolf population off the endangered species list. The same year, a controversial act of Congress delisted gray wolf populations in most of the Rocky Mountains, returning responsibility for wolf protection to the states. But wolves are famously energetic travelers, and these wolves didn’t stay put. In recent years, wolves from the northern Rockies have been spotted in Washington, Oregon, and northern California, and are rumored to be ranging into Colorado and Utah. Wolves from the Great Lakes have turned up in Illinois and Iowa.

Outside the northern Rockies and the Great Lakes, wolves are still protected by the Endangered Species Act, so these wanderers have raised delicate political questions. Although some states are willing to work with the federal government on wolf management, others want sole control of any wolves that turn up within their boundaries. And the White House’s slim margin of support in the Senate relies on centrist Democrats from Western states—many of whom support full wolf delisting, in part because some Western ranchers want the right to shoot wolves that menace their livestock.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for its part, wants to devote its limited money and resource to conservation of the Mexican wolf, a type of gray wolf that was reintroduced into northern New Mexico and Arizona in 1998 and continues to struggle for survival. “The time has now come for the service to focus its efforts on the recovery of the Mexican wolf,” agency director Dan Ashe said at a public hearing last year in Washington, D.C.

The Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing the rest of the country’s gray wolves from the federal endangered species list last June, protecting only the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies. Any gray wolves that roamed beyond the northern Rockies and the Great Lakes, it announced, would no longer enjoy endangered species protection. The delisting proposal set off a contentious public comment period that was due to end in September, after which the delisting would either be finalized or scrapped.

One part of the agency’s proposal was especially unusual: it argued that its original listing of the gray wolf, back in 1967, had been flawed. In the delisting proposal, the agency not only recognized the eastern wolf as a separate species but also concluded that its existence required a major revision to the historic range map of the gray wolf—making it far smaller than the initial listing had claimed.

Agency director Ashe argued at the hearing in Washington, D.C., last September that there is “no one set formula for how to recover a species.” The law requires only that species be safe from extinction, he said, not restored throughout its historic range, before it can be taken off the endangered species list. The two thriving populations in the Great Lakes and Rocky Mountains, the agency said, were reason enough to delist the gray wolf.

But historic range has long been an important factor in delisting decisions. “If you eliminate the entire East Coast from the gray wolf’s range map, it’s just much easier to argue that wolves are no longer endangered,” says NRDC’s Wetzler.

At the D.C. hearing, Don Barry, who served as an assistant Interior secretary during the Clinton administration, took the microphone to speak for himself and two other former assistant secretaries. Barry recalled that the bald eagle, American pelican, American alligator, and peregrine falcon had been removed from the endangered species list only after returning to suitable habitat throughout most of their historic ranges.

“That is how the Endangered Species Act is supposed to work,” said Barry. By stark contrast, he said, the proposal to delist the gray wolf reflected “a shrunken vision of what recovery should mean.”

READ MORE: http://www.salon.com/2014/02/14/outrageous_the_u_s_may_take_the_grey_wolf_off_the_endangered_species_list_paper/

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Due to the “dubious science” USFWS is using to justify a national delisting of gray wolves, comments have been reopened until March 27,  2014. PLEASE COMMENT!! We are on to them and they know it!!

It looks like the USFWS comments @ regulationsdotgov has started the count over. There were over a million comments and now the counter is set @ 540. WTF? I’m going to delve into this on Monday. Meanwhile PLEASE COMMENT!

http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FWS-HQ-ES-2013-0073-43030

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Photo: USFWS

Posted in: gray wolf, Wolf Wars, biodiversity

Tags: Flawed delisting plan exposed, USFWS push for national wolf delisting, shaky science, wolf persecution

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21 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Reblogged this on Mind Chatter and commented:
    Our Wolves America!

  2. Eastern wolf or gray wolf of the Midwest (timber wolf) and West ranging to deep south. What difference does it make? The gray wolf was exterminated, except maybe isolated remnants in the Northwest USA. Any wolf, no matter the taxonomy mainly by geography was exterminated or nearly so in the USA, with only remnants remaining. Wolves traveled and intermingled across lands that at one time had no man made geographical boundaries, and continued to do so afterward mans’ geography. Wolves may change with regard to size or fur color in different regions, but are still wolf. It seems that wrong distinctions are being emphasized here and absurd arguments by USFWS for delisting (politically motivated) and wolf biologists nitpicking and exaggerating relatively small differences. To the extent that there are viable niches for the gray wolf, or red wolf, or eastern wolf, then they should be protected until they have filled those niches. Then we should not play nature management Gods by then trying to control natural migrations and mixing as this is what they did before. The wolf is good for any true wilderness ecology, flora and fauna, in which they formerly occupied; so let man facilitate a return not block it.

  3. that can not say this is already a killing without reason that kill wolves they are like the umbrella of nature I think Mr. President obama has to stop this massacre and am a redwolf-therian and I want to see my wolf brothers run no in dreams

    • Sorry to say Obama doesn’t know how, when or why he does
      anything. One would think since he’s President of the United States of America, a husband and father that he’d introduce his family to the “wonders of this great country”. Hawaii is nice but our National Parks, coast to coast, are marvelous. There’s no better vacation/education than being outdoors and enjoying nature.

  4. If the gray wolf has only claimed but five percent of his historic range within all of this nation’s ecosystems, how can he possibly be de-listed? Where are the wolves in California, Pacific Northwest?

    Of all species, the apex, top predator controls the entire ecosystem. Ecosystems and Earth desperately need more wolves, not fewer!

    It’s referred to as the “trophic cascade.”

  5. Desiring a result and scrambling to find any evidence, no matter how flimsy, to justify it. Yeah, real scientific.
    Anyone smelling an augmented version of the “non-native Canadian wolf” myth?

  6. The US gov needs to be brought to extinction.  Leave the animals alone & quit trying to control every living thing.  

  7. Reblogged this on .

  8. Maybe we need to work on delisting USFWS. They need someone with some common sense to “manage” that department.

  9. I cannot read about our wildlife being slaughtered for no good reason anymore. It’s just too upsetting. I say they get rid of BLM, USFWS, Sally Jewell. They are all worthless and are slaughtering our wildlife by the thousands. Sad government.

  10. Our country should not allow this to happen. Wolves occupy only a fraction of the habitat they could, and none of it would interfere with human activities. If this delisting is allowed to occur, it will show just how little the Obama Administration values the environment and wildlife – just think of all of the decades of hard work that will be thrown away if this happens, and 500 are so wolves are killed in Idaho. There’s more to environmental issues than human energy usage, and we’re bungling with climate change also. Restoring wolves and natural habitat would do wonders, but we think we know better. We don’t.

    • Ida, Can you imagine them sitting around in a room trying to figure out a way to turn wolf delisting into a pretzel? I think Ashe and Barasso are behind this. Remember this?

      “The movement to “aggressively pursue” a resolution to the wolves’ status in Wyoming means Barrasso will lift his hold on Ashe’s nomination.”

      In other words, I think Bararrso was holding Ashe’s appointment hostage until he agreed to “aggressively pursue” wolf “management” in
      Wyoming.

      Salazar, Ashe to visit Wyoming to talk wolves

      http://www.idahostatejournal.com/news/national/article_c32dd556-a1d2-11e0-a180-001cc4c03286.html

      All these shenanigans are going on trying to exterminate what’s left of the wolves in this nation. It’s not enough for them that we have wolf hunts, wolves tortured, trapped, snared, poisoned, chased by dogs and god knows what else, they want them gone, period and will do anything to make that happen. That’s what we’re dealing with.

      For the wolves, For the wild ones,
      Nabeki

      • Yes and once they are ALL gone, they will wake up one day and want to reintroduce them into the wild again. Then the cycle starts all over again. KILL KILL KILL FOR RANCHERS. Same with buffalo.They are trying to kill them off. Sad and so heartbreaking.

  11. Yes, I have also noticed that USF&W is headed in an inexplicable direction, and maybe this is why. Idaho’s plan to kill 500 wolves to bring their numbers down to 150 is unethical and not good for their genetics. I hope Idahoans have the gumption to stand up to Otter and special interests.

  12. Removing grey wolves from protection in the lower 48 before the science has been settled (and it may never be) for political and special interests is outrageous. That only Eastern wolves occupied certain areas is absurd, especially when you think of how the wolf came to North America. The fact that no other animal sparks such species debate is telling – we still fear and do not want the wolf in our midst. It is wrong and we have no right to do it. In my opinion, the mass extermination of the 19th and early 20th century is what caused the development of Eastern wolf and most recently coywolves, because nature will try to survive. Although I love the coywolves, I am incredibly saddened to think they exist because grey wolves were very nearly wiped out. What a shameful history we have, and it appears it is not yet put to rest in our past. Science of convenience isn’t science. Noone is saying that the grey wolf needs to recover in all of its former range, or even most of its former range – just not the paltry bit we’ve deigned to give them, and it looks like even that is in jeopardy in the West and Great Lakes.

    Sally Jewell’s ‘hands are tied by science’? More like her arm is being twisted by Western politics and special interests.

  13. […] US government could drive grey wolf to extinction… By Michelle Nijhuis, OnEarth.org […]

  14. Leave ALL the animals alone!!!!!!! I think the government should focus on our country’s debt, illegals, and overruling Obamacare!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! God made these creatures so he must want them here!!!!

  15. […] howlingforjustice […]

  16. Reblogged this on geri emmelman and commented:
    I keep hoping for the day that common sense replaces dollars and cents, and human nature stops controlling mother nature. I hope it is in my lifetime.

  17. Also, where are these eastern wolves? Nowhere in the eastern US, and if any venture over from Canada, they are promptly shot (with the ‘I tot I taw a coyote, I did, I did!’ common defense). Why aren’t they given endangered species protection? I think I read a court case or something (with Safari Club Int’l prominently listed as a friend of the court) where they said there isn’t enough information at the present to list them. But there’s enough information in favor of delisting the grey wolf because of eastern wolves? Talk about doublespeak! They don’t even try to make sense because they assume the people don’t give a crap, and maybe the people don’t.

  18. I’m not against the reclassification of the Eastern Timber Wolf as a separate species, but this should NOT be used to justify delisting Gray Wolves nationwide (especially in the Western US, where the Eastern Timber Wolf does not live in the first place). And regardless of its taxonomy, the Eastern Timber Wolf was all but eradicated from the Eastern US and is a Species of Special Concern in Canada, so it should be protected under the Endangered Species Act anyway!

    Now that I think about it, didn’t the USFWS refuse to recognize the Eastern Timber Wolf as a separate species when it delisted the Great Lakes Gray Wolf because it believed the science did not support such a position? And now all of a sudden it decided that reclassification is valid based on that same unsettled science? I sense that this reclassification is only for justifying the delisting of Gray Wolves and not for the sake of the Eastern Timber Wolf or the science itself. And that’s just unethical. Any reclassification of the Eastern Timber Wolf should be because of the science, not for a political agenda.


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