Wolf Advocates…Play Offense not Defense

October  28,2014

I’ve been going through my archives looking for timely pieces to repost.

This is just as relevant today as it was in 2010, maybe more, considering the challenges wolves and wolf advocates face are so much greater!

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Feb 16, 2010

When gray wolves are discussed the inevitable dialog commences concerning their effect on ungulates or livestock, which puts wolf advocates perpetually on defense. We feel compelled to defend the wolf.  Many of the posts on this blog are in defensive mode. Wolves are continually portrayed in a bad light, so I feel obligated to defend them, it’s a natural reaction.

I’m an avid football fan and I know a great defense is the backbone of any team but the best defense is a good offense.  If we’re constantly talking about deer, elk and livestock then we’re not talking about wolves.  I believe this is the strategy of the anti wolf-crowd, to take the focus off wolf issues. It’s a tactic as old as time and it works.  If you want to deflect attention from an issue, change the subject.

I challenge wolf advocates to stop playing defense.  The motives that drive wolf persecution are political and cultural.  It’s not about livestock depredation, elk numbers or “wolf management.”

From Wolves A Cosmopolitan World View:

“Wolves (have) persisted quite well alongside humanity for over a hundred thousand years, all without the “benefit” of wildlife management. It should be clear, then, that humanity’s troubled relationship with wolves has little to do with sound science in the sense of empirical data, quantitative models, or management techniques. Instead, our trouble with wolves is a deeply rooted ethical conflict over whether to coexist with wolves and other large predators. Resolving this conflict is a question of values, not facts and wolf recovery depends on a culture of tolerance for other life forms and their ways-of-life, not a science of wildlife management.”

As for elk and deer, wolves have been coexisting with their prey for thousands of years without the need to be managed.  The elk owes it’s fleetness of foot to the wolf.  It wasn’t until Europeans set foot on this continent that the wolf suddenly became the enemy.  Europe had purged itself of most large carnivores. European farmers and ranchers transplanted that idea to America and the war against the wolf began, almost four hundred years ago. The last hundred years included an aggressive poisoning, trapping and shooting campaign led by the federal government.  Not only were wolves mercilessly killed but other predators and animals were targeted. It’s believed more than two million wolves were eradicated from the lower forty-eight, that’s a grim figure.

To learn more about the extermination of wolves in the West and to understand the mindset that believed any wildlife that couldn’t be controlled should be eliminated, I recommend reading Predatory Bureaucracy: The Extermination of Wolves and The Transformation of the West, by Michael Robinson.

In a Nova Online interview, given ten years ago, Ed Bangs (Wolf Recovery Coordinator, US Fish and Wildlife Service) put it this way:

“Well, we deliberately got rid of them, as a society. A hundred years ago, our society placed very low value on all wildlife. We got rid of all the deer, the elk, the bison, the turkeys, you know, everything, in deference to other social objectives, primarily agriculture and settlement. And you can imagine being a grizzly bear or a black bear or a wolf or a coyote—when there was nothing else to eat but livestock, that’s what you ate.  As a consequence settlers really hated wolves, grizzly bears and other predatory animals and they deliberately tried to get rid of them all. The federal government actually sent out trappers who spent years hunting down the last wolf and killing it. The last wolves were actually killed by the U.S. Biological Survey, which is the agency that transformed itself into the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that is now responsible for wolf restoration!” 

He goes on to describe how wolves were killed:

Poison, and a lot of them were shot. The dens were found, the pups were hit over the head. And then the adults were shot around the den. But poison is probably what did away with most of the wolves. The old stories go that there wasn’t a cowboy in the west worth his salt that wouldn’t see a carcass and lace it with strychnine in the attempt to kill everything, I mean the foxes, the coyotes, the eagles, the wolves, the bears, everything. And this poisoning campaign, surprisingly, went on until the ’70s. There were poison baits placed throughout the western United States—even on public lands by federal agencies.”

This mindset is still prevalent today, especially in the West.  Many people holding these views occupy political office, populate state game agencies and have the power to make life and death decisions concerning wolves and other predators.  Even though wildlife belongs to all Americans, elected officials and bureaucrats who are grounded in outdated, arcane thinking,  exert tremendous control over wildlife “management”.  Think of  Wildlife Services and the damage they do every year. Yet they continue to operate with abandon.

Did you ever wonder if wolves are blamed for livestock kills committed by another predator, their very close cousins, the dog?  There was a recent study done in Basque that addressed this issue:

“Two researchers of the Euskadi Wolf Group at the Doñana Biological Station” examined the feces of wild wolves and dogs, which were identified by their DNA and examined the contents of their scat.  Their findings:

When compared the remains of prey identified in both wolf and dog feces, they saw each feces contained only a single prey item. Among the prey items identified in 30 wolf feces (the remains in one wolf fecal sample were unknown), 22 contained wild prey (17 roe deer, three wild boar, one Eurasian badger and one European hare) and eight contained domestic animals (four horses, three cattle and one sheep). Wild species represented 73% of all prey identified in wolf feces and sheep only 3%.

Of the 39 prey items they be able to identify in dog feces, 14 (36%) contained remains of sheep and seven (18%) contained remains of either horses or cattle. Domestic animals represented 54% of all prey identified in dog feces.

When suspected wolf livestock kills are reported, do you believe after reading the Basque study, that “wildlife managers”  sometimes get it wrong? That wolves may be blamed for more than they actually kill?  Or wolves may show up after a kill is made by another predator and be blamed for it?  This happened to the Mexican gray wolves that were under death warrants if they killed more than three livestock per year, even though cattle made up just 4% of their diet.  The three strikes rule was rescinded last year but before SOP 13 (Standard Operating procedure) was rejected, endangered Mexican gray wolves were eliminated for feeding on dead cows even if the cows died of natural causes.  The ranchers were not removing dead carcasses, even though it’s their responsiblity to do so as tenants on public land. The outrageous fact is the Mexican gray wolves Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area is all public land. The wolves should have dominion here, not ranchers, who are leasing the land.  That land belongs to the American people, yet we have zero input on what happens to the animals that inhabit it.

The Mexican wolves now number just 42 animals, down from 52 wolves counted at the end of 2008. Two Mexican wolves were conclusively shot and the remainder of the deaths are being investigated but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the dead wolves, including four pups, were probably killed by poachers.

The reason I bring up the Basque study and Mexican wolves is they provide two examples of wolves blamed for livestock deaths they may not have committed.  It’s akin to the half-truths and outright lies that are repeated about wolves decimating elk.  The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation declared elk numbers not only stable but rising in 23 states, in their 2009 Spring press release. The elk population grew 44% from 1984 to 2009 yet  I’ve actually had hunters write to me asking where I get my numbers on elk, when it’s their own RMEF stats.  Unbelievable but it shows what happens when people want to believe myths about wolves.  Which brings me back to taking the offense when it comes to wolves. Don’t be sucked into endless discussions about ranching and elk.  Wolves need our help. If we waste our time engaging in counter productive arguments defending wolves against rumor and myth,  then the anti wolf crowd has won.  They want to change the subject.  They want to talk about anything but wolves.

Our goal,  as I see it, is to emphasize the positives. Wolves and all apex predators improve the health of our ecosystems.  We can point out the admirable qualities wolves possess,  that we can all aspire to.  To quote Ed Bangs once more:

“A wolf’s territory represents the place where their family lives and where they’re safe. If you’re in your pack’s territory, you have a family to help defend you, to care for you, to share food with you. Wolves are the parents, the mothers, the fathers, the brothers and sisters that we always hoped we could be. I mean there’s extreme loyalty among family members, it’s everything to them.”

This is what the world needs to know about wolves.

You won’t see negative comments or arguments about wolves on this blog. I’m not going to perpetuate the same tired dogma that’s been ingrained in the thinking of so many people who should know better. If we can stand against the rumors, myths and prejudice that haunt wolves to this day, we can truly make a difference for them and other top line predators.

Let’s stop playing defense by allowing wolf haters to control the tone and content of the conversation. It  doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work to dispel rumors but more of our time could be wisely spent devoted to helping wolves achieve the peace they deserve by spreading the word about the good qualities they possess.

It’s a tough job battling hundreds of years of persecution.  Even our language is rife with “bad wolf karma”  that we may not be aware of.  Phrases such as “Thrown to the wolves”,  “Wolves at the door” or “The Big, Bad Wolf”, imparts the idea that wolves are menacing and bad.  Or the way in which wolves are portrayed  in movies and literature.  Werewolves are almost always evil,  the idea of a human (usually a man) transformed into a wolf,  that kills humans with abandon, conveys the belief wolves are inherently evil, which is so far from the truth.

Wolf advocates it’s time for us to play offense and keep the conversation centered on wolf issues and their welfare. Education is the key, especially for young people,  so they don’t grow up believing the same lies and half-truths many seem to hold so dearly.  Maybe it’s time to write new fairy tales about wolves, instead of the “The Big Bad Wolf” eating grandma.  How about wolves saved aspen and willow trees?  Or having wolves on the landscape helps the Pronghorn antelope fawns?

We are their voice, wolves can’t speak for themselves, so it’s our job to speak for them.   Speak out for wolves and you control the conversation.

Remember:

“Perhaps it was the eyes of the wolf, measured, calm, knowing.
Perhaps it was the intense sense of family.
After all, wolves mate for life, are loyal partners, create hunting communities
and demonstrate affectionate patience in pup rearing.
Perhaps it was the rigid hierarchy of the packs.
Each wolf had a place in the whole and yet retained his individual personality.
Perhaps it was their great, romping, ridiculous sense of fun.
Perhaps it was some celestial link with the winter night skies
that prompted the wolf to lay his song on the icy air.
For the native people who lived with the wolves,
and the wolves once ranged from the Arctic to the sub-tropics,
there was much to learn from them.
Is it any wonder that the myths of many tribes characterise the wolves
not as killers but as teachers?”
~ Unknown

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 Wolf Photo: Courtesy SigmaEye Flickr

Posted in: gray wolf/canis lupus, biodiversity,  Howling For Justice

Tags:  canis lupus, play offense not defense, wolf research, Mexican gray wolves, wolves or livestock

Of Wolves and Men…….

black wolf nexus wallpaper

October 7, 2014

This was one of my first posts. It traces the origins of wolf hatred and persecution. Wolves have suffered greatly at the hands of man.

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September 29, 2009

Nature Magazine examines reasons behind wolf hatred and the systematic campaign to remove them from the lower forty-eight. It merits repeating that for thousands of years Native Americans were able to live with wolves and bears, while settlers saw them as a threat. Even the famed naturalist James Audubon partook in torturing wolves, which was particularly shocking to learn.

As noted in Michael Robinson’s “Predatory Bureaucracy: The Extermination of Wolves and the Transformation of the West”, the federal government became the wolf killing arm for the livestock industry.

By understanding the roots of wolf prejudice it’s clear to see why wolves have been demonized in American culture. The wolf has paid dearly for these attitudes. Even though the same outdated beliefs exist today, we are moving forward to a clearer understanding of the important role predators play in maintaining healthy ecosystems.

Man cannot continue to play god, deciding which animals are good or bad. Predators do not have ulterior motives, they hunt because that is what they are born to do and by so doing contribute to the health and stamina of their prey.

The nexus of wolf wars is the continuing presence of livestock on the Western range. This has been and will continue to be the reason wolves remain caught in the crossfire.

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From Nature Online:

The Wolf That Changed America
Wolf Wars: America’s Campaign to Eradicate the Wolf

 Wolves have been feared, hated, and persecuted for hundreds of years in North America. Before the arrival of Europeans, Native Americans incorporated wolves into their legends and rituals, portraying them as ferocious warriors in some traditions and thieving spirits in others. European Americans, however, simply despised wolves. Many, including celebrated painter and naturalist John James Audubon, believed wolves ought to be eradicated for the threat they posed to valuable livestock. This attitude enabled a centuries-long extermination campaign that nearly wiped out the gray wolf in the continental United States by 1950.

Origins of Wolf Hatred

In the New World, two top predators – wolves and men – that otherwise would have avoided each other clashed over livestock. In Vicious: Wolves and Men in America, Jon T. Coleman writes:

Wolves had a ghostly presence in colonial landscapes. Settlers heard howls, but they rarely spotted their serenaders. The fearsome beasts avoided humans. People frightened them, and colonists knew this: “They are fearefull Curres,” reported Thomas Morton in 1637, “and will runne away from a man (that meeteth them by chance at a banke end) as fast as any fearefull dogge.”

Because humans and wolves frightened one another, they logically avoided confrontation, opening space between the species. But that space closed when European colonists brought horses, cattle, sheep and pigs with them over the perilous journey across the Atlantic. Without these animals – sources of food and transportation for the European settlers – the colonies would have failed. But because most early colonial communities were small, livestock often grazed on the periphery of the settlements with little protection. Their pastures abutted and bled into the wild, exposing the animals to hungry wolves in search of prey. Wolves quickly learned that docile cattle and sheep made easy meals. Suddenly, colonists found their livelihoods in danger, and they lashed out at wolves, both with physical violence and folklore that ensured wolf hatred would be passed down from one generation to the next.

Amateur and Professional Wolf Baiting

The campaign to eradicate wolves in North America began with private landowners and farmers baiting and trapping wolves. Often, colonists turned wolf baiting into both sport and protection for their livestock. Jon T. Coleman describes an incident that took place in the winter of 1814 deep in the Ohio River Valley, in which John James Audubon assists a farmer as he mutilates trapped wolves.

During the fall, a pack of wolves had robbed [the farmer] of “nearly the whole of his sheep and one of his colts.” For him, it made sense to devote his winter labor to digging pits, weaving platforms, hunting bait, and setting and checking his traps twice daily. The animals had injured him, and “he was now ‘paying them off in full.’” Audubon’s reaction to the slaying of the wolves is less understandable … The ingenious pit traps amazed him, as did the fearsome predators’ meek behavior and the childlike glee the farmer took in his work. The violence Audubon witnessed, however, did not shock him. Watching a pack of dogs rip apart terrified and defenseless animals was a “sport” both he and the farmer found enjoyable.

Further west, in Yellowstone National Park, wolf baiting and hunting had become a lucrative profession. Paul Schullery, in his guidebook to Yellowstone wolves (The Yellowstone Wolf: A Guide & Sourcebook), describes the profession and the devastating affect it had on the Yellowstone wolf population: “At least as early as 1877, ungulate carcasses in the park were poisoned with strychnine by free-lance ‘wolfers’ for ‘wolf or wolverine bait.’ By 1880, [Yellowstone National Park] Superintendent [Philetus] Norris stated in his annual report that ‘…the value of their [wolves and coyotes] hides and their easy slaughter with strychnine-poisoned carcasses have nearly led to their extermination.’”

In the Southwest, as settlers depleted bison, elk, deer, and moose populations – the wolves’ natural prey – the predators turned more and more to picking off livestock. In states like New Mexico where cattle ranching was big business, ranchers responded by turning to professional wolfers and bounty hunters. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports, “To protect livestock, ranchers and government agencies began an eradication campaign. Bounty programs initiated in the 19th century continued as late as 1965, offering $20 to $50 per wolf. Wolves were trapped, shot, dug from their dens, and hunted with dogs. Poisoned animal carcasses were left out for wolves, a practice that also killed eagles, ravens, foxes, bears, and other animals that fed on the tainted carrion.”

Government-Sanctioned Wolf Extermination Programs   

            

Government Trapper

Towards the end of the 19th Century, wealthy livestock owners increased both their demand for wider grazing ranges and their influence over policymakers in Washington, D.C. In 1885, the federal government established the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey, initially chartered to research insects and birds. However, the livestock lobby quickly diverted the Bureau’s attention to wolves. Stockowners complained that their land was infested with wolves, calling them “breeding grounds.” They demanded the federal government secure their land for safe pasturage.

In 1906, the U.S. Forest Service acquiesced to the stockowners and enlisted the help of the Bureau of Biological Survey (now USFWS) to clear cattle ranges of gray wolves. In other words, the Bureau became a wolf-extermination unit. Bruce Hampton writes in The Great American Wolf:

That same year [1906], bureau biologist Vernon Bailey traveled to Wyoming and New Mexico to investigate the extent of wolf and coyote depredations. Upon Bailey’s return to Washington, D.C., President Roosevelt invited him to the White House to see what he had learned. Although there is no record of their conversation, immediately following Bailey’s meeting the President, the Biological Survey recommended that the government begin “devising methods for the destruction of the animals [wolves].”

By the middle of the 20th Century, government-sponsored extermination had wiped out nearly all gray wolves in the Lower 48 states. Only a small population remained in northeastern Minnesota and Michigan. Yet the Bureau of Biological Survey was still disseminating anti-wolf propaganda as late as 1940. One poster from the time read:

According to estimates of stockmen [the Custer Wolf, pictured in the poster] killed $25,000 worth of cattle during the seven years he was known in the vicinity of Custer, South Dakota … A local bounty of $500 failed to secure his capture. A Department hunter ended his career of destruction by a skillfully set trap. Many notorious wolves are known to have killed cattle valued at $3000 to $5000 in a year. More than 3,849 wolves have been destroyed by the predatory animal work of the Department and its cooperators since the work was organized in 1915.

It was not until the late sixties, when a greater understanding of natural ecosystems began changing attitudes in the scientific community and the National Park Service, that the plight of wolves in North America began to improve.

In 1973, Congress gave gray wolves protection under the Endangered Species Act. According to Douglas Smith and Gary Ferguson, in Yellowstone National Park, where the last gray wolf was killed in 1926, “the entire [gray wolf] restoration program was guided by directives contained in the Endangered Species Act – a law created to ground a decades-old cornerstone of science that says the healthiest, most stable natural systems tend to be those with high levels of biodiversity.”

Since then, wolf populations throughout the country have increased. In 1995 and 1996, researchers in Yellowstone National Park released 31 Canadian gray wolves back into the wild. The event was hailed as a testament to the conservation movement’s efforts to revive wild wolf populations in America. Yet anti-wolf attitudes persist. Shortly after the release of the Yellowstone wolves a hunter shot and killed Wolf Number 10. Smith and Ferguson write about the incident: “As disturbing as the shooting itself was, more unsavory still was the reaction of a handful of locals who cheered the killing, calling it an act of heroism.”

Photos © Arizona Historical Society

Sources

Coleman, Jon T. Vicious: Wolves and Men in America. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2004.

Hampton, Bruce. The Great American Wolf. New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1997.

Robinson, Michael J. Predatory Bureaucracy: The Extermination of Wolves and the Transformation of the West. University Press of Colorado, 2005.

Schullery, Paul. The Yellowstone Wolf: A Guide & Sourcebook. Worland, Wyoming: High Plains Publishing Company, Inc., 1996.

Smith, Douglas W. and Gary Ferguson. Decade of the Wolf: Returning the Wild to Yellowstone. Guilford, Connecticut: The Lyons Press, 2005.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Gray Wolf Fact Sheet. [updated January 2007; cited November 2008]

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/the-wolf-that-changed-america/wolf-wars-americas-campaign-to-eradicate-the-wolf/4312/

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The Wolf That Changed America

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Photo:  Courtesy Nexus wolf wallpaper

Video: Courtesy YouTube thejungletv95

Posted in: Wolf  Wars

Tags:  gray wolf, wolves or livestock, wolf intolerance, The Wolf That Changed America, Nature

Published in: on October 7, 2014 at 2:59 am  Comments (17)  
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Looking Back: Remembering The Sage Creek Pack..

July 23, 2014

This week I’m re-posting tributes to fallen wolves and wolf packs, some killed before the 2009 delisting, like the 27 member strong Hog Heaven Pack, slaughtered in 2008 by Wildlife Services, outside of Kalispell, Montana.  It makes no difference to me whether they are famous park wolves or wolves who remain faceless and nameless, they are all equal in my eyes and I love them. To think of the thousands who’ve died  breaks my heart. I can’t help them now but I can honor them through remembrance. Sleep well beautiful souls.

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The Sage Creek Pack was eliminated by aerial gunners in 2009.  It was a huge loss. Yellowstone wolves are genetically isolated, the  Sage Creek Pack could have provided them with important genetics but that means nothing to the wolf killers. Wildlife Services was aerial gunning wolves even as the first wolf hunt was taking place outside the park, which decimated the famed Cottonwood pack.

“The Sage Creek Pack roamed the Centennial Mountains between Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho – precisely in the area that could alleviate genetic isolation through the influx of wolves from Idaho and the possibility (for now, lost with the pack’s demise) of yearlings making their way into Yellowstone.”

Sage Creek Pack Wiped Out By Aerial Gunners in Montana

October 9, 2012

Aerial gunners wiped out the remaining four members of the Sage Creek Pack, which will serve to further genetically isolate Yellowstone’s wolves. The Center for Biological Diversity issued a statement concerning this outrageous event. This pack was originally targeted because it killed ONE SHEEP!!

“The initial cause for the destruction of the eight-member Sage Creek Pack was its predation on a single sheep on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Sheep Experiment Station, which grazes thousands of sheep on more than 100,000 acres in Montana and Idaho”

It always comes back to grazing livestock on public lands and who pays the price? The Wolf!

Montana FWP recently closed the backcountry area WMU-3 (which encompasses the wilderness outside of Yellowstone) in part due to the loss of nine wolves in that area, including the Cottonwood Pack. This pack was part of ongoing research on Yellowstone’s famous wolves. The hunts eliminated the pack because buffer zones were not in place for the wolves, who can’t read boundary signs. Their only crime was leaving the protection of the park. So that’s two wolf packs gone in a matter of weeks. One lost to hunters and the other to FWP aerial gunners.

For Immediate Release, October 9, 2009

Aerial Gunning of Wolf Pack in Montana Isolates Yellowstone Wolves, Undermines Recovery

SILVER CITY, N.M.— This week’s aerial gunning of the last four members of the Sage Creek wolf pack in southwestern Montana contributes to the genetic isolation of wolves in Yellowstone National Park – even as, on Thursday, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks commission suspended the public wolf-hunting season near Yellowstone in order not to isolate the national park’s wolves.

Said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity: “We are saddened by the loss of the Sage Creek Pack. Suspending the permitted wolf-hunting season near Yellowstone will not be enough to save these animals as long as the U.S. Department of Agriculture continues to gun down entire packs from the air.”

The initial cause for the destruction of the eight-member Sage Creek Pack was its predation on a single sheep on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Sheep Experiment Station, which grazes thousands of sheep on more than 100,000 acres in Montana and Idaho.

In 2007, the Center for Biological Diversity and Western Watersheds Project sued the sheep station for its failure to disclose the impacts of, and analyze alternatives to, its operations, which has occurred in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act. The sheep station settled the lawsuit with an agreement to disclose and analyze and to decide its future via a public process.

“The USDA Sheep Experiment Station is undermining gray-wolf recovery and should be shut down,” said Robinson.

Genetic isolation of the Yellowstone wolves, which may be exacerbated through the federal killing of the Sage Creek Pack, is at issue in a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies seeking to place wolves back on the endangered species list after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed them from the list this spring. Such genetic isolation was part of what led a federal court, in July 2008, to order the relisting of wolves after a previous delisting action.

The Sage Creek Pack roamed the Centennial Mountains between Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho – precisely in the area that could alleviate genetic isolation through the influx of wolves from Idaho and the possibility (for now, lost with the pack’s demise) of yearlings making their way into Yellowstone.

A 1994 environmental impact statement on wolf reintroduction to Yellowstone and central Idaho identified genetic exchange between sub-populations as key to wolf recovery.

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2009/wolves-10-09-2009.html

Top photo: kewlwallpapersdotcom

Photo courtesy James Balog/www.goagro.org

Categories posted in: aerial gunning of wolves, biodiversity, Wolf Wars, Yellowstone Wolves

Tags: wolves or livestock, aerial gunning of wolves, wolf intolerance, Sage Creek Pack, genetic diversity loss

Remembering The Hog Heaven Wolf Pack…

Hog Heaven wolf pack

February 3, 2014

I wrote this post in October 2009, a month after  Howling For Justice was created and mere months after wolves in the Northern Rockies were delisted by the Obama administration. The first wolf hunts in Montana and Idaho had just gotten underway  but the Hog Heaven Wolf Pack wasn’t killed by hunters, they were wiped out by Wildlife Services in 2008.

27 members strong, with two breeding females and 15 puppies, they are now just a memory, as so many wolf packs are. Today they barely have names, they’re anonymous wolves, who live and die without any recognition. But I remember when Wildlife Services gunned down one of the largest wolf packs to roam Montana. Here’s a look back at the doomed Hog Heaven Pack. In their memory please vow to work harder than ever to stop the slaughter of wolves.

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Hog Hell: The Demise of the Hog Heaven Wolf Pack

October 23, 2009

In 2008, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming killed 245 gray wolves in the name of ”livestock depredation”.

Twenty seven of those wolves were members of the Hog Heaven Wolf Pack, residing southwest of Kalispell, Montana, in the Browns Meadow/Hog Heaven area. They had been accused of preying on a few calves, some llamas and a bull.  The decision was made in November 08 to take out the entire pack.  Eight members of the pack had already been shot from the air by Wildlife Services.

In a three-day period, December 3rd, 4th and 5th of 2008,  the remaining 19 members of the Hog Heaven pack were gunned down, an almost unprecedented event, causing public outrage. Many articles were written  and opinions voiced, opposing the action. FIFTEEN PUPPIES AND TWO BREEDING FEMALES were among the slain.  The Hog Heaven pack was “the seventh entire wolf pack to be killed by Montana in 2008.”

The zero tolerance wolf management plan is just plain wrong and senseless, especially since cattle deaths by wolves are minimal.  Domestic dogs killed five times the number of cows than wolves in 2005.  I don’t see Wildlife Services taking out Labs and Huskies from the air?

The average number of cattle losses specific to wolf predation in these States is less than 0.7%.  This compares to an average of 1.6% of cattle losses due to predation by coyotes and an average of 90% of losses due to non-predator related causes such as health problems and disease.”

*The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), reports on cattle losses in the lower 48 States every five years.  Nationally, health issues such as respiratory problems, digestive problems, calving complications and disease were overwhelmingly the most significant causes of cattle death in 2005.  (The year for which we have the most recent detailed data.)”

“Only 0.11% (about 1/10 of 1%) of all cattle losses were due to wolf predation in 2005. Coyotes killed 22 times more cattle than wolves killed that year.  Domestic dogs killed almost 5 times as many cattle, and vultures killed almost twice as many cattle as wolves in 2005.  Theft was responsible for almost 5 times the cattle losses as were lost by wolf predation.”

http://www.everythingwolf.com/news/readarticle.aspx?article=234

The Hog Heaven pack was special, one of the largest wolf packs ever recorded in Montana, (the once mighty Yellowstone Druid’s had 37 members at their peak).

Instead of trying non-lethal methods to preserve the pack, the state  eliminated them!  AND this all happened while wolves still had ESA protection!!

The anti-wolf crowd wants you to believe wolves are hanging around ranches waiting to prey on livestock, when in reality most of the miniscule depredations take place on our vast public lands, where cattle and sheep are left unprotected.

George Wuerthner, the famed ecologist, calls cows, “walking picnic baskets”. What would you do if you were a predator surrounded by an ocean of cattle and sheep?  Would you munch on them or go after more difficult prey? We already know the answer. Yet the wolf pays the ultimate price for lazy, sloppy ranching practices and the federal government’s refusal to pull public land grazing permits, even though cattle pollute streams, trample riparian zones and over graze the land.

Wolf supporters realize the unfairness of what’s happening.

In 2008, when the Hog Heaven pack was lethally removed, people spoke out:

“Gunning down an entire pack of wolves — a species that is supposed to be protected under the endangered species act — borders on criminal,” said Jerry Black of the Missoula group Wildlife Watchers.

“We are outraged by this senseless slaughter of one of nature’s most majestic animals.”

Added Whitefish resident Roger Sherman: “It seems to me the so-called ’scientific management’ of wolves boils down to simply killing them to conciliate the livestock industry.”

“Brian Vincent, communications director for the group Big Wildlife, insists that the elimination of the Hog Heaven Pack could have been avoided.”

“Why should an entire pack of wolves pay the fatal price for a situation that could probably have been avoided?” he said.

“Both agencies are acting like it’s the Wild West with all guns blazing.”

Yellowstone_Wolves

It’s too late for Hog Heaven, they’re not coming back. This unique pack, was wiped out by Wildlife Services before Montanans could react. Is it any wonder wildlife advocates question the motives behind so many wolves losing their lives for so little reason? Why are the lives of predators held so cheaply?

If the failed policies of the states and feds to “manage wolves” continue, it’s certain they will never fully recover. We’ll be left with fragmented populations of wolves, genetically isolated, constantly under the gun.

What’s behind the intolerance of wolves?  It’s certainly not because they’re killing large numbers of livestock, wolf predation on livestock is minimal.  It’s not because wolves are decimating elk populations. Elk in Montana and Idaho are strong, with numbers way up.  Idaho has 105,000 elk and Montana numbers are even higher at 150,000 plus.

Yet the war on wolves continues. This year the Sage Creek Pack and Yellowstone’s Cottonwood pack were gunned down, one wiped out by Wildlife Services and the other shot in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness at the beginning of Montana’s wolf hunt.  They join the Hog Heaven Pack and many others in the ever-increasing death toll of gray wolves.

Will it be Hog Heaven or Hog Hell for wolves in the Northern Rockies?

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Wolf photos: Courtesy Wikipedia Commons, All About Wolves, Wolf Wallpaper
Categories posted in: Montana Wolves, Wildlife Services War on Wildlife
Tags:  gray wolf, wolves or livestock, wolf intolerance, Wildlife Services, Hog Heaven Wolf Pack, National Agricultural Statistics Service

Double Standard: Cattle Rustlers and Wolves

January 4, 2010

It seems cattle rustling is a problem in the Great Basin, where three states converge (Oregon, Nevada and Idaho)  Cattle are being stolen but ranchers have been reluctant to point fingers.  Hmmmm. That seems odd.  When wolves are accused of killing livestock, Wildlife Services is called in to remove so called “depredating wolves” quicker then you can say holy cow…BUT when ranchers lose cows to theft…mums the word?

“Out of pride and a reluctance to point a finger at neighbors, ranchers in the vast Great Basin outback where Oregon, Idaho and Nevada come together have been slow to admit that someone in their midst, perhaps even someone they know from barbecues and brandings, has been stealing cattle. Just who is doing it, and how they have gotten away with it for at least three years, remains a mystery.”

It wasn’t until last summer that ranchers overcame their reluctance to talk to the law and each other about the problem.  It was discovered that 1200 cattle have disappeared, who can’t be accounted for from natural mortality.  

Ranchers don’t seem to have a problem reporting wolves for cattle losses.  I guess there’s a double standard going on here.

“Ranchers are keeping closer watch on their cattle, even with hidden cameras, and taking counts every time a herd moves through a gate, so they can report a theft sooner.”

So ranchers will take steps to keep a closer eye on their cattle when rustlers are involved and spend the money needed to protect their investment.  Interesting isn’t it?

And they admit turning their cows loose on the wide open range, unsupervised.  What a surprise.

“Bred cows are turned loose on rangeland far from home and left on their own for months at a time. The only good count of what the weather, predators, disease, poisonous weeds and now rustlers have left comes at the fall gather.”

“Jordan Valley ranchers Rand and Jane Collins swim their cows across the Owyhee River to get them to their federal allotment in February, and don’t see them again until June or July, when they brand the new calves.”

So let me get this straight.  Rustlers are stealing cattle on large open ranges, where cattle are left unsupervised but it wasn’t until recently that ranchers were willing to admit to the problem?  Yet there is no reluctance to report suspected wolf predation?

“It’s not the kind of thing you like to admit,” Rand Collins said. “There’s always the chance as the season goes along that the cattle will turn up, and then you look like a fool for crying wolf.”

Crying wolf seems to be what many ranchers can’t stop doing.

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Updated: Fri 6:43 PM, Jun 03, 2011

Cattle Rustlers Causing Big Problems for Ranchers

http://www.kbtx.com/news/headlines/Cattle_Rustlers_Causing_Big_Problems_for_Ranchers_123136068.html?storySection=story

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Rustlers ride wideopen range of Great BasinRustlers ride wideopen range of Great Basin

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100103/ap_on_re_us/us_cattle_rustling_spree

Rustlers take advantage of vast empty Great Basin country to plague cattle ranchers

http://www.mcall.com/news/nationworld/sns-ap-us-cattle-rustling-spree,0,3642978.story

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Posted in: gray wolf/canis lupus, public land degredation by livestock

Tags: cattle rustling, wolves or livestock

Looking Back: Remembering The Sage Creek Pack..

May 27, 2012

The Sage Creek Pack was eliminated by aerial gunners in 2009.  It was a huge loss. Yellowstone wolves are genetically isolated, the  Sage Creek Pack could have provided them with important genetics but that means nothing to the wolf killers. Wildlife Services was aerial gunning wolves even as the first wolf hunt was taking place outside the park, which decimated the famed Cottonwood pack.

“The Sage Creek Pack roamed the Centennial Mountains between Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho – precisely in the area that could alleviate genetic isolation through the influx of wolves from Idaho and the possibility (for now, lost with the pack’s demise) of yearlings making their way into Yellowstone.”

Sage Creek Pack Wiped Out By Aerial Gunners in Montana

October 9, 2012

Aerial gunners wiped out the remaining four members of the Sage Creek Pack, which will serve to further genetically isolate Yellowstone’s wolves. The Center for Biological Diversity issued a statement concerning this outrageous event. This pack was originally targeted because it killed ONE SHEEP!!

“The initial cause for the destruction of the eight-member Sage Creek Pack was its predation on a single sheep on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Sheep Experiment Station, which grazes thousands of sheep on more than 100,000 acres in Montana and Idaho”

It always comes back to grazing livestock on public lands and who pays the price? The Wolf!

Montana FWP recently closed the backcountry area WMU-3 (which encompasses the wilderness outside of Yellowstone) in part due to the loss of nine wolves in that area, including the Cottonwood Pack. This pack was part of ongoing research on Yellowstone’s famous wolves. The hunts eliminated the pack because buffer zones were not in place for the wolves, who can’t read boundary signs. Their only crime was leaving the protection of the park. So that’s two wolf packs gone in a matter of weeks. One lost to hunters and the other to FWP aerial gunners.

For Immediate Release, October 9, 2009

Aerial Gunning of Wolf Pack in Montana Isolates Yellowstone Wolves, Undermines Recovery

SILVER CITY, N.M.— This week’s aerial gunning of the last four members of the Sage Creek wolf pack in southwestern Montana contributes to the genetic isolation of wolves in Yellowstone National Park – even as, on Thursday, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks commission suspended the public wolf-hunting season near Yellowstone in order not to isolate the national park’s wolves.

Said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity: “We are saddened by the loss of the Sage Creek Pack. Suspending the permitted wolf-hunting season near Yellowstone will not be enough to save these animals as long as the U.S. Department of Agriculture continues to gun down entire packs from the air.”

The initial cause for the destruction of the eight-member Sage Creek Pack was its predation on a single sheep on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Sheep Experiment Station, which grazes thousands of sheep on more than 100,000 acres in Montana and Idaho.

In 2007, the Center for Biological Diversity and Western Watersheds Project sued the sheep station for its failure to disclose the impacts of, and analyze alternatives to, its operations, which has occurred in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act. The sheep station settled the lawsuit with an agreement to disclose and analyze and to decide its future via a public process.

“The USDA Sheep Experiment Station is undermining gray-wolf recovery and should be shut down,” said Robinson.

Genetic isolation of the Yellowstone wolves, which may be exacerbated through the federal killing of the Sage Creek Pack, is at issue in a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies seeking to place wolves back on the endangered species list after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed them from the list this spring. Such genetic isolation was part of what led a federal court, in July 2008, to order the relisting of wolves after a previous delisting action.

The Sage Creek Pack roamed the Centennial Mountains between Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho – precisely in the area that could alleviate genetic isolation through the influx of wolves from Idaho and the possibility (for now, lost with the pack’s demise) of yearlings making their way into Yellowstone.

A 1994 environmental impact statement on wolf reintroduction to Yellowstone and central Idaho identified genetic exchange between sub-populations as key to wolf recovery.

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2009/wolves-10-09-2009.html

Top photo: kewlwallpapersdotcom

Photo courtesy James Balog/www.goagro.org

Categories posted in: aerial gunning of wolves, biodiversity, Wolf Wars, Yellowstone Wolves

Tags: wolves or livestock, aerial gunning of wolves, wolf intolerance

Locked And Loaded: Wildlife Services Takes Aim At Wolves & Other Predators

aerial gunning of wolves

UDATE: May 2, 2012

In light of the Sacramento Bee’s explosive expose on Wildlife Services and the lawsuit filed against the agency by WildEarth Guardians, I felt it would be important to re-post this 2009 piece.

 Remember this is a repost, reflecting what was happening in 2009,  so a few of the links are outdated but Wildlife Services hasn’t changed, they’re still doing what they’ve been doing for decades, killing wildlife.

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October 19, 2009

Who is Wildlife Services? If you asked the majority of Americans, they probably couldn’t tell you.  It was formerly known as “Animal Damage Control (ADC)”. The agency is the extermination arm of the Department of Agriculture.

“It’s just a subsidy to agriculture.. Somehow we’ve decided  as a culture that agriculture should be subsidized through the death of animals and this agency is particularly destructive because it robs the public of wildlife and doesn’t even do that much good.” (Jay Tutchton, Environmental law clinic, University of Denver School of Law)

They have the authority  to trap, poison, shoot and aerial gun animals, done mainly for the livestock industry.  Because Wildlife Services keeps a low profile, most people have no idea their tax dollars are paying a federal agency to kill off predators and other wildlife to “protect ranching.”

If you’ve ever wondered, as I have, what’s happened to all the foxes, raccoons, beavers and coyotes, just to name a few, well now you know.  A good many of them are being blown away each year by this agency.  And most of us, have absolutely nothing to say about it.  Does that seem right to you?

The statistics are shocking:

Wildlife Services killed 1456  gray wolves nationally from 2004 to 2008.  That’s an average of 364 dead wolves per year.  They even killed 9 Mexican Gray wolves in that same time period, one of the most endangered animals in the US, they only number 52 wolves.

“The governments own figures again show that mammalian carnivores kill very few livestock (0.18%)  Of the 104.5 million cattle that were produced in 2005, 190,000 (or 0.18%) died as the result of predation from coyotes, domestic dogs, and other carnivores (USDA, 2006). In comparison, livestock producers lost 3.9 million head of cattle (3.69%) to all sorts of maladies, weather, or theft, respiratory problems, digestive problems, calving, unknown, other, disease, lameness, metabolic problems, poison (USDA, 2006)

Coyotes were the primary cattle predators — they killed 97,000 cattle in 2005, followed by domestic dogs — which killed 21,900 cattle. Wolves killed remarkably few cattle, 4,400 head, as did the felids (USDA, 2006)” http://www.goagro.org/index.html

So let’s get this straight. DOMESTIC DOGS killed more cattle than wolves!. That’s from the USDA, 2006 numbers.  Coyotes, who killed the most cattle, 97,000, which still is a very small percentage, paid dearly with their lives.  696,936 coyotes were eliminated by Wildlife Services between 2004-2008.

Truth really does put everything in perspective and when you see how little damage wolves really do compared to other factors,  it’s mind-boggling that we’re having organized wolf  hunts, management plans, aerial gunning, poisoning, denning and  trapping of wolves with whole federal and state agencies devoted to making sure the wolf population doesn’t get any bigger.  You have to ask yourself why? Can you guess?  It’s called irrational fear, intolerance of another species and appalling arrogance.

just another day for wildlife services

Photo: courtesy James Balog

“Wolves killed in Polaris, Montana in 2004 for the purposes of livestock protection. Wildlife Services agents, school children, and teacher pose with dead wolves.”

Photo Courtesy:  http://www.goagro.org/

2005

“In just one year, your tax dollars helped kill 252 gray wolves, 72,816 coyotes, 1.2 million starlings, 6,832 skunks, 330 mountain lions, 2,172 red foxes, 33,469 beavers, 356 black bears, three bald eagles and two grizzly bears. Have you heard of Wildlife Services?” (excerpt from The Exterminators)

2006

“Wildlife Service kill totals for mammals were up sharply from previous years:

  • A record number of gray wolves (278), the subject of a highly publicized reintroduction effort, were killed in numbers that are up more than six-fold since 1996;

Another 116,610 mammalian carnivores, including 87,000 coyotes, 10,000 raccoons, 2,500 bobcats, 500 badgers, and 318 black bears were taken by federal wildlife agents who also killed 1,184 house cats and 512 dogs; and

  • Approximately 50,000 animals from the rodent and rabbit families—the largest toll came from beavers (28,000), followed by nutria (2,500), and marmots and woodchucks (3,700).”

2004-2008

Click this link to see the number of  mammalian carnivores  killed by Wildlife Services from 2004 through 2008:  Beavers aren’t included on the list because they’re in the rodent family  but we know Wildlife Services kills large numbers of them each year, 28, 000 in 2006.

http://www.goagro.org/index.html

Photo courtesy James Balog/www.goagro.org

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We’ve seen the brutal statistics.  How do they accomplish this mass killing of  America’s wildlife?

From all-creatures.org:

Wildlife Services utilizes killing methods that are non-selective, haphazard, and brutal, including:

Trapping and Snaring

Trapping may be the most inhumane method used by Wildlife Services. Traps can go unchecked for days, allowing the animal to suffer. When not killed outright by the trap, animals can endure physiological trauma, dehydration, exposure to severe weather, and predation by other animals. Most traps are notoriously indiscriminate, capturing almost any animal who triggers them. Non-target species found in traps include endangered species, raptors, dogs, and cats. The most commonly used trap is the steel-jawed leghold trap, a restraining device with spring-loaded jaws that clamp on an animal’s foot or leg when triggered. Leghold traps can cause fractures, self-mutilation, limb amputation, and death. A desperate animal will even try to chew off a limb to escape. Snares are primitive wire nooses that tighten around an animal’s leg or neck. When snared, an animal may struggle for days.

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Aerial Gunning

Alaskan wolf shot by aerial gunner

“Wildlife Services uses helicopters and fixed wing aircraft to shoot animals from the air. In 2007, the agency killed over 37,000 animals using aircraft. An agency Environmental Assessment revealed many wounded animals may be left to die.[4] Because Wildlife Services uses snowfall to track coyotes in early spring, agents may kill pregnant or lactating females. Deaths of the latter leave pups to starve. Aerial gunning is also used for “preventative predator control,” permitting agents to shoot as many carnivores as they can prior to domestic animals entering an area. The price tag for shooting carnivores from the sky can be high: killing one coyote can cost $1,000.

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Poisoning

M-44s

Photo courtesy USDA

In 2005, Wildlife Services used M-44, small devices that shoot cyanide gas into an animal’s mouth when triggered, to kill more than 12,700 animals nationally.

danger

Wildlife Services prefers two toxins to kill predators: Sodium Monofluoroacetate (aka Compound 1080), a rat poison developed by the Nazis during World War II, and sodium cyanide. To distribute 1080, the agency uses Livestock Protection Collars – rubber bladders attached to the neck of a goat or sheep that, when pierced, releases the poison. 1080 is so lethal a single teaspoon can kill 100 people. Wildlife Services also sets M-44 devices, spring-loaded, baited mechanisms that release sodium cyanide into the mouth of any animal who disturbs the device. 1080 and sodium cyanide present serious national security risks. The FBI has listed both as “super poisons” that are “most likely to be used by terrorists or for malicious intent.”

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Denning

wolf pups 2

Denning is the practice of tracking carnivores to their dens then killing pups inside. Poisonous gas canisters are placed in dens to asphyxiate pups. Or government agents dig pups out and shoot, club, or decapitate them. Pups have even been burned alive in their den.

Wildlife Services’ lethal control programs ignore the importance of carnivores. As “keystone species,” carnivores play a pivotal role in sustaining ecological integrity and preserving species diversity. For example, large carnivores regulate deer and elk, as well as smaller mammal, populations. The disappearance of top carnivores triggers the loss of other species and the intricate connections among the remaining residents begin to unravel. Many carnivore species need big, wild areas to survive. Wide-ranging animals like grizzly bears are considered “umbrella” species. By protecting habitat for such predators, we save places for many more animal and plant species.””

http://www.all-creatures.org/alert/alert-20081206.html

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The Exterminators

June 7, 2007

Missoula Independent

mountain lions killed

In just one year, your tax dollars helped kill 252 gray wolves, 72,816 coyotes, 1.2 million starlings, 6,832 skunks, 330 mountain lions, 2,172 red foxes, 33,469 beavers, 356 black bears, three bald eagles and two grizzly bears. Have you heard of Wildlife Services?

http://missoulanews.bigskypress.com/missoula/the-exterminators/Content?oid=1137944

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HOW CAN YOU HELP?

Predator Defense

Support HR 4775, (UPDATE: It’s now  HR4214)“The Compound 1080 & M-44 Elimination Act”, sponsored by Predator Defense. It’s stalled in Congress and needs our help.  Please call your representative and ask them to support this important legislation.  Eliminating the use of these deadly poisons against wildlife is critical!! Barbarous methods like these do not belong in the 21st century.  Make your voice heard!!

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Conservation groups have continually called on the USDA to end Wildlife Services’ mass killing of predators and other wildlife, yet they still operate with impunity at the bidding of big ranching.  What will it take for a policy change in Washington?

Contact President Obama and ask him to abolish this destructive agency, who is poisoning, trapping and shooting America’s wildlife.

President Obama

White House Phone Numbers

202-456-1414 (switchboard)
202-456-1111 (white house comment line)

comments@whitehouse.gov

http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments

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Group Calls for End to the War on Wildlife

WildEarth Guardians

Seeks End of Aerial Gunning & Poisoning of Wildlife on Public Lands

http://idahostatejournal.com/news/national/article_3254d8c6-db91-11de-b8ab-001cc4c002e0.html

wolf pack in winter

FOR THE WOLVES, FOR THE WILD ONES

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Photo: Courtesy The Missoula Independent

Posted in: Wildlife Services War on Wildlife, Wolf Wars, gray wolf

Tags:  wolf intolerance, wolves or livestock, USDA, Wildlife Services, M-44, Compound 1080

The War Against Wolves Continues Unabated…

I first posted this on September 29, 2009, just as the first wolf hunts were getting under way. I changed the title and photo but the content remains the same.

Nature Magazine examines reasons behind wolf hatred and the systematic campaign to remove them from the lower forty-eight.  It merits repeating that for thousands of years Native Americans were able to live with wolves and bears, while settlers saw them as a threat. Even the famed naturalist James Audubon partook in torturing wolves, which was particularly shocking to learn.

From “Hating Wolves”

“In 1814, John James Audubon watched a farmer torture three wolves. The farmer had trapped them in a pit after they had killed his sheep and a colt. The man jumped into the pit armed only with a knife, hamstrung each wolf as they cowered in fear, and tied it up with a rope. Then he hauled them out one at a time and set his dogs on them as they scuffled crippled along the ground. Audubon was astounded by the meekness of the wolves and the glee with which the farmer went about his revenge, but he was not distressed. He and the farmer considered torturing wolves a “sport,” something both normal and enjoyable. The sadistic behavior did not warrant comment.”

As noted in Michael Robinson’s “Predatory Bureaucracy:  The Extermination of Wolves and the Transformation of the West”, the federal government became the wolf killing arm for the livestock industry. 

By understanding the roots of wolf prejudice it’s clear to see why wolves have been demonized in American culture.  The wolf  has paid dearly for these attitudes. Even though the same outdated beliefs exist today, we are moving forward to a clearer understanding of the important role predators play in maintaining healthy ecosystems.

Man cannot continue to play god, deciding which animals are good or bad.  Predators do not have ulterior motives, they hunt because it’s what they were born to do and by so doing contribute to the health and stamina of their prey.

Currently wolves are being hunted in Idaho and Montana. Idaho has not set a quota in most of the state and wants to take their wolves down to 150 animals or lower.  Montana set a very high quota of 220 out of 5oo plus wolves. Wildlife Services continues to slaughter them for minimal livestock losses, poachers kill them, they’re hit by cars, shot by ranchers, subject to SSS (shoot, shovel and shut-up). Their lives are hard, made almost unbearable by the constant persecution.

We’ve learned nothing from the past. Wolves were wiped out in the West not long ago and it looks like we’re headed down that long dark road once more.

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From Nature Online:

Wolf Wars: America’s Campaign to Eradicate the Wolf

 Wolves have been feared, hated, and persecuted for hundreds of years in North America. Before the arrival of Europeans, Native Americans incorporated wolves into their legends and rituals, portraying them as ferocious warriors in some traditions and thieving spirits in others. European Americans, however, simply despised wolves. Many, including celebrated painter and naturalist John James Audubon, believed wolves ought to be eradicated for the threat they posed to valuable livestock. This attitude enabled a centuries-long extermination campaign that nearly wiped out the gray wolf in the continental United States by 1950.

Origins of Wolf Hatred

In the New World, two top predators – wolves and men – that otherwise would have avoided each other clashed over livestock. In Vicious: Wolves and Men in America, Jon T. Coleman writes:

Wolves had a ghostly presence in colonial landscapes. Settlers heard howls, but they rarely spotted their serenaders. The fearsome beasts avoided humans. People frightened them, and colonists knew this: “They are fearefull Curres,” reported Thomas Morton in 1637, “and will runne away from a man (that meeteth them by chance at a banke end) as fast as any fearefull dogge.”

Because humans and wolves frightened one another, they logically avoided confrontation, opening space between the species. But that space closed when European colonists brought horses, cattle, sheep and pigs with them over the perilous journey across the Atlantic. Without these animals – sources of food and transportation for the European settlers – the colonies would have failed. But because most early colonial communities were small, livestock often grazed on the periphery of the settlements with little protection. Their pastures abutted and bled into the wild, exposing the animals to hungry wolves in search of prey. Wolves quickly learned that docile cattle and sheep made easy meals. Suddenly, colonists found their livelihoods in danger, and they lashed out at wolves, both with physical violence and folklore that ensured wolf hatred would be passed down from one generation to the next.

Amateur and Professional Wolf Baiting

The campaign to eradicate wolves in North America began with private landowners and farmers baiting and trapping wolves. Often, colonists turned wolf baiting into both sport and protection for their livestock. Jon T. Coleman describes an incident that took place in the winter of 1814 deep in the Ohio River Valley, in which John James Audubon assists a farmer as he mutilates trapped wolves.

During the fall, a pack of wolves had robbed [the farmer] of “nearly the whole of his sheep and one of his colts.” For him, it made sense to devote his winter labor to digging pits, weaving platforms, hunting bait, and setting and checking his traps twice daily. The animals had injured him, and “he was now ‘paying them off in full.’” Audubon’s reaction to the slaying of the wolves is less understandable … The ingenious pit traps amazed him, as did the fearsome predators’ meek behavior and the childlike glee the farmer took in his work. The violence Audubon witnessed, however, did not shock him. Watching a pack of dogs rip apart terrified and defenseless animals was a “sport” both he and the farmer found enjoyable.

Further west, in Yellowstone National Park, wolf baiting and hunting had become a lucrative profession. Paul Schullery, in his guidebook to Yellowstone wolves (The Yellowstone Wolf: A Guide & Sourcebook), describes the profession and the devastating affect it had on the Yellowstone wolf population: “At least as early as 1877, ungulate carcasses in the park were poisoned with strychnine by free-lance ‘wolfers’ for ‘wolf or wolverine bait.’ By 1880, [Yellowstone National Park] Superintendent [Philetus] Norris stated in his annual report that ‘…the value of their [wolves and coyotes] hides and their easy slaughter with strychnine-poisoned carcasses have nearly led to their extermination.’”

In the Southwest, as settlers depleted bison, elk, deer, and moose populations – the wolves’ natural prey – the predators turned more and more to picking off livestock. In states like New Mexico where cattle ranching was big business, ranchers responded by turning to professional wolfers and bounty hunters. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports, “To protect livestock, ranchers and government agencies began an eradication campaign. Bounty programs initiated in the 19th century continued as late as 1965, offering $20 to $50 per wolf. Wolves were trapped, shot, dug from their dens, and hunted with dogs. Poisoned animal carcasses were left out for wolves, a practice that also killed eagles, ravens, foxes, bears, and other animals that fed on the tainted carrion.”

Government-Sanctioned Wolf Extermination Programs

Towards the end of the 19th Century, wealthy livestock owners increased both their demand for wider grazing ranges and their influence over policymakers in Washington, D.C. In 1885, the federal government established the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey, initially chartered to research insects and birds. However, the livestock lobby quickly diverted the Bureau’s attention to wolves. Stockowners complained that their land was infested with wolves, calling them “breeding grounds.” They demanded the federal government secure their land for safe pasturage.

In 1906, the U.S. Forest Service acquiesced to the stockowners and enlisted the help of the Bureau of Biological Survey to clear cattle ranges of gray wolves. In other words, the Bureau became a wolf-extermination unit. Bruce Hampton writes in The Great American Wolf:

Government Wolf Trapper

That same year [1906], bureau biologist Vernon Bailey traveled to Wyoming and New Mexico to investigate the extent of wolf and coyote depredations. Upon Bailey’s return to Washington, D.C., President Roosevelt invited him to the White House to see what he had learned. Although there is no record of their conversation, immediately following Bailey’s meeting the President, the Biological Survey recommended that the government begin “devising methods for the destruction of the animals [wolves].”

By the middle of the 20th Century, government-sponsored extermination had wiped out nearly all gray wolves in the Lower 48 states. Only a small population remained in northeastern Minnesota and Michigan. Yet the Bureau of Biological Survey was still disseminating anti-wolf propaganda as late as 1940. One poster from the time read:

According to estimates of stockmen [the Custer Wolf, pictured in the poster] killed $25,000 worth of cattle during the seven years he was known in the vicinity of Custer, South Dakota … A local bounty of $500 failed to secure his capture. A Department hunter ended his career of destruction by a skillfully set trap. Many notorious wolves are known to have killed cattle valued at $3000 to $5000 in a year. More than 3,849 wolves have been destroyed by the predatory animal work of the Department and its cooperators since the work was organized in 1915.

It was not until the late sixties, when a greater understanding of natural ecosystems began changing attitudes in the scientific community and the National Park Service, that the plight of wolves in North America began to improve.

In 1973, Congress gave gray wolves protection under the Endangered Species Act. According to Douglas Smith and Gary Ferguson, in Yellowstone National Park, where the last gray wolf was killed in 1926, “the entire [gray wolf] restoration program was guided by directives contained in the Endangered Species Act – a law created to ground a decades-old cornerstone of science that says the healthiest, most stable natural systems tend to be those with high levels of biodiversity.”

Since then, wolf populations throughout the country have increased. In 1995 and 1996, researchers in Yellowstone National Park released 31 Canadian gray wolves back into the wild. The event was hailed as a testament to the conservation movement’s efforts to revive wild wolf populations in America. Yet antiwolf attitudes persist. Shortly after the release of the Yellowstone wolves a hunter shot and killed Wolf Number 10. Smith and Ferguson write about the incident: “As disturbing as the shooting itself was, more unsavory still was the reaction of a handful of locals who cheered the killing, calling it an act of heroism.”

Photos © Arizona Historical Society

Sources

Coleman, Jon T. Vicious: Wolves and Men in America. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2004.

Hampton, Bruce. The Great American Wolf. New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1997.

Robinson, Michael J. Predatory Bureaucracy: The Extermination of Wolves and the Transformation of the West. University Press of Colorado, 2005.

Schullery, Paul. The Yellowstone Wolf: A Guide & Sourcebook. Worland, Wymoning: High Plains Publishing Company, Inc., 1996.

Smith, Douglas W. and Gary Ferguson. Decade of the Wolf: Returning the Wild to Yellowstone. Guilford, Connecticut: The Lyons Press, 2005.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Gray Wolf Fact Sheet. [updated January 2007; cited November 2008]

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/the-wolf-that-changed-america/wolf-wars-americas-campaign-to-eradicate-the-wolf/4312/

Photo: Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Posted in: Wolf  Wars

Tags:  gray wolf, wolves or livestock, wolf intolerance

Published in: on October 28, 2011 at 5:06 am  Comments (3)  
Tags: , , , ,

Wolf Advocates…Play Offense not Defense

October  28,2014

I’ve been going through my archives looking for timely pieces to repost.

This is just as relevant today as it was in 2010!

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Feb 16, 2010

When gray wolves are discussed the inevitable dialog commences concerning their effect on ungulates or livestock, which puts wolf advocates perpetually on the defense. We feel compelled to defend the wolf.  Many of the posts on this blog are in defensive mode. Wolves are continually portrayed in a bad light, so I feel obligated to defend them, it’s a natural reaction.

I’m an avid football fan and I know a great defense is the backbone of any team but the best defense is a good offense.  If we’re constantly talking about deer, elk and livestock then we’re not talking about wolves.  I believe this is the strategy of the anti wolf-crowd, to take the focus off wolf issues. It’s a tactic as old as time and it works.  If you want to deflect attention from an issue, change the subject.

I challenge wolf advocates to stop playing defense.  The motives that drive wolf persecution are political and cultural.  It’s not about livestock depredation, elk numbers or “wolf management.”

From Wolves A Cosmopolitan World View:

“Wolves (have) persisted quite well alongside humanity for over a hundred thousand years, all without the “benefit” of wildlife management. It should be clear, then, that humanity’s troubled relationship with wolves has little to do with sound science in the sense of empirical data, quantitative models, or management techniques. Instead, our trouble with wolves is a deeply rooted ethical conflict over whether to coexist with wolves and other large predators. Resolving this conflict is a question of values, not facts and wolf recovery depends on a culture of tolerance for other life forms and their ways-of-life, not a science of wildlife management.”

As for elk and deer, wolves have been coexisting with their prey for thousands of years without the need to be managed.  The elk owes it’s fleetness of foot to the wolf.  It wasn’t until Europeans set foot on this continent that the wolf suddenly became the enemy.  Europe had purged itself of most large carnivores. European farmers and ranchers transplanted that idea to America and the war against the wolf began, almost four hundred years ago. The last hundred years included an aggressive poisoning, trapping and shooting campaign led by the federal government.  Not only were wolves mercilessly killed but other predators and animals were targeted. It’s believed more than two million wolves were eradicated from the lower forty-eight, that’s a grim figure.

To learn more about the extermination of wolves in the West and to understand the mindset that believed any wildlife that couldn’t be controlled should be eliminated, I recommend reading Predatory Bureaucracy: The Extermination of Wolves and The Transformation of the West, by Michael Robinson.

In a Nova Online interview, given ten years ago, Ed Bangs (Wolf Recovery Coordinator, US Fish and Wildlife Service) put it this way:

“Well, we deliberately got rid of them, as a society. A hundred years ago, our society placed very low value on all wildlife. We got rid of all the deer, the elk, the bison, the turkeys, you know, everything, in deference to other social objectives, primarily agriculture and settlement. And you can imagine being a grizzly bear or a black bear or a wolf or a coyote—when there was nothing else to eat but livestock, that’s what you ate.  As a consequence settlers really hated wolves, grizzly bears and other predatory animals and they deliberately tried to get rid of them all. The federal government actually sent out trappers who spent years hunting down the last wolf and killing it. The last wolves were actually killed by the U.S. Biological Survey, which is the agency that transformed itself into the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that is now responsible for wolf restoration!” 

He goes on to describe how wolves were killed:

Poison, and a lot of them were shot. The dens were found, the pups were hit over the head. And then the adults were shot around the den. But poison is probably what did away with most of the wolves. The old stories go that there wasn’t a cowboy in the west worth his salt that wouldn’t see a carcass and lace it with strychnine in the attempt to kill everything, I mean the foxes, the coyotes, the eagles, the wolves, the bears, everything. And this poisoning campaign, surprisingly, went on until the ’70s. There were poison baits placed throughout the western United States—even on public lands by federal agencies.”

This mindset is still prevalent today, especially in the West.  Many people holding these views occupy political office, populate state game agencies and have the power to make life and death decisions concerning wolves and other predators.  Even though wildlife belongs to all Americans, elected officials and bureaucrats who are grounded in outdated, arcane thinking,  exert tremendous control over wildlife “management”.  Think of  Wildlife Services and the damage they do every year. Yet they continue to operate with abandon.

Did you ever wonder if wolves are blamed for livestock kills committed by another predator, their very close cousins, the dog?  There was a recent study done in Basque that addressed this issue:

“Two researchers of the Euskadi Wolf Group at the Doñana Biological Station” examined the feces of wild wolves and dogs, which were identified by their DNA and examined the contents of their scat.  Their findings:

When compared the remains of prey identified in both wolf and dog feces, they saw each feces contained only a single prey item. Among the prey items identified in 30 wolf feces (the remains in one wolf fecal sample were unknown), 22 contained wild prey (17 roe deer, three wild boar, one Eurasian badger and one European hare) and eight contained domestic animals (four horses, three cattle and one sheep). Wild species represented 73% of all prey identified in wolf feces and sheep only 3%.

Of the 39 prey items they be able to identify in dog feces, 14 (36%) contained remains of sheep and seven (18%) contained remains of either horses or cattle. Domestic animals represented 54% of all prey identified in dog feces.

When suspected wolf livestock kills are reported, do you believe after reading the Basque study, that “wildlife managers”  sometimes get it wrong? That wolves may be blamed for more than they actually kill?  Or wolves may show up after a kill is made by another predator and be blamed for it?  This happened to the Mexican gray wolves that were under death warrants if they killed more than three livestock per year, even though cattle made up just 4% of their diet.  The three strikes rule was rescinded last year but before SOP 13 (Standard Operating procedure) was rejected, endangered Mexican gray wolves were eliminated for feeding on dead cows even if the cows died of natural causes.  The ranchers were not removing dead carcasses, even though it’s their responsiblity to do so as tenants on public land. The outrageous fact is the Mexican gray wolves Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area is all public land. The wolves should have dominion here, not ranchers, who are leasing the land.  That land belongs to the American people, yet we have zero input on what happens to the animals that inhabit it.

The Mexican wolves now number just 42 animals, down from 52 wolves counted at the end of 2008. Two Mexican wolves were conclusively shot and the remainder of the deaths are being investigated but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the dead wolves, including four pups, were probably killed by poachers.

The reason I bring up the Basque study and Mexican wolvesis because they provide two examples of wolves being blamed for livestock deaths they may not have committed.  It’s akin to the half-truths and outright lies that are repeated about wolves decimating elk.  The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation declared elk numbers not only stable but rising in 23 states, in their 2009 Spring press release. The elk population grew 44% from 1984 to 2009 yet  I’ve actually had hunters write to me asking where I get my numbers on elk, when it’s their own RMEF stats.  Unbelievable but it shows what happens when people want to believe myths about wolves.  Which brings me back to taking the offense when it comes to wolves. Don’t be sucked into endless discussions about ranching and elk.  Wolves need our help. If we waste our time engaging in counter productive arguments defending wolves against rumor and myth,  then the anti wolf crowd has won.  They want to change the subject.  They want to talk about anything but wolves.

Our goal,  as I see it, is to emphasize the positives. Wolves and all apex predators improve the health of our ecosystems.  We can point out the admirable qualities wolves possess,  that we can all aspire to.  To quote Ed Bangs once more:

“A wolf’s territory represents the place where their family lives and where they’re safe. If you’re in your pack’s territory, you have a family to help defend you, to care for you, to share food with you. Wolves are the parents, the mothers, the fathers, the brothers and sisters that we always hoped we could be. I mean there’s extreme loyalty among family members, it’s everything to them.”

This is what the world needs to know about wolves.

You won’t see negative comments or arguments about wolves on this blog. I’m not going to perpetuate the same tired dogma that’s been ingrained in the thinking of so many people who should know better. If we can stand against the rumors, myths and prejudice that haunt wolves to this day, we can truly make a difference for them and other top line predators.

Let’s stop playing defense by allowing wolf haters to control the tone and content of the conversation. It  doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work to dispel rumors but more of our time could be wisely spent devoted to helping wolves achieve the peace they deserve by spreading the word about the good qualities they possess.

It’s a tough job battling hundreds of years of persecution.  Even our language is rife with “bad wolf karma”  that we may not be aware of.  Phrases such as “Thrown to the wolves”,  “Wolves at the door” or “The Big, Bad Wolf”, imparts the idea that wolves are menacing and bad.  Or the way in which wolves are portrayed  in movies and literature.  Werewolves are almost always evil,  the idea of a human (usually a man) transformed into a wolf,  that kills humans with abandon, conveys the belief wolves are inherently evil, which is so far from the truth.

Wolf advocates it’s time for us to play offense and keep the conversation centered on wolf issues and their welfare. Education is the key, especially for young people,  so they don’t grow up believing the same lies and half-truths many seem to hold so dearly.  Maybe it’s time to write new fairy tales about wolves, instead of the “The Big Bad Wolf” eating grandma.  How about wolves saved aspen and willow trees?  Or having wolves on the landscape helps the Pronghorn antelope fawns?

We are their voice, wolves can’t speak for themselves, so it’s our job to speak for them.   Speak out for wolves and you control the conversation.

Remember:

“Perhaps it was the eyes of the wolf, measured, calm, knowing.
Perhaps it was the intense sense of family.
After all, wolves mate for life, are loyal partners, create hunting communities
and demonstrate affectionate patience in pup rearing.
Perhaps it was the rigid hierarchy of the packs.
Each wolf had a place in the whole and yet retained his individual personality.
Perhaps it was their great, romping, ridiculous sense of fun.
Perhaps it was some celestial link with the winter night skies
that prompted the wolf to lay his song on the icy air.
For the native people who lived with the wolves,
and the wolves once ranged from the Arctic to the sub-tropics,
there was much to learn from them.
Is it any wonder that the myths of many tribes characterise the wolves
not as killers but as teachers?”
~ Unknown

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 Wolf Photo: Courtesy SigmaEye Flickr

Posted in: gray wolf/canis lupus, biodiversity,  howling for justice

Tags:  canis lupus, play offense not defense, wolf research, Mexican gray wolves, wolves or livestock

Remembering The Hog Heaven Wolf Pack…

Hog Heaven wolf pack

February 3, 2014

I wrote this post in October 2009, a month after  Howling For Justice was created and mere months after wolves in the Northern Rockies were delisted by the Obama administration. The first wolf hunts in Montana and Idaho had just gotten underway  but the Hog Heaven Wolf Pack wasn’t killed by hunters, they were wiped out by Wildlife Services in 2008.

27 members strong, with two breeding females and 15 puppies, they are now just a memory, as so many wolf packs are. Today they barely have names, they’re anonymous wolves, who live and die without any recognition. But I remember when Wildlife Services gunned down one of the largest wolf packs to roam Montana. Here’s a look back at the doomed Hog Heaven Pack. In their memory please vow to work harder than ever to stop the slaughter of wolves.

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Hog Hell: The Demise of the Hog Heaven Wolf Pack

October 23, 2009

In 2008, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming killed 245 gray wolves in the name of ”livestock depredation”.

Twenty seven of those wolves were members of the Hog Heaven Wolf Pack, residing southwest of Kalispell, Montana, in the Browns Meadow/Hog Heaven area. They had been accused of preying on a few calves, some llamas and a bull.  The decision was made in November 08 to take out the entire pack.  Eight members of the pack had already been shot from the air by Wildlife Services.

In a three-day period, December 3rd, 4th and 5th of 2008,  the remaining 19 members of the Hog Heaven pack were gunned down, an almost unprecedented event, causing public outrage. Many articles were written  and opinions voiced, opposing the action. FIFTEEN PUPPIES AND TWO BREEDING FEMALES were among the slain.  The Hog Heaven pack was “the seventh entire wolf pack to be killed by Montana in 2008.”

The zero tolerance wolf management plan is just plain wrong and senseless, especially since cattle deaths by wolves are minimal.  Domestic dogs killed five times the number of cows than wolves in 2005.  I don’t see Wildlife Services taking out Labs and Huskies from the air?

The average number of cattle losses specific to wolf predation in these States is less than 0.7%.  This compares to an average of 1.6% of cattle losses due to predation by coyotes and an average of 90% of losses due to non-predator related causes such as health problems and disease.”

*The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), reports on cattle losses in the lower 48 States every five years.  Nationally, health issues such as respiratory problems, digestive problems, calving complications and disease were overwhelmingly the most significant causes of cattle death in 2005.  (The year for which we have the most recent detailed data.)”

“Only 0.11% (about 1/10 of 1%) of all cattle losses were due to wolf predation in 2005. Coyotes killed 22 times more cattle than wolves killed that year.  Domestic dogs killed almost 5 times as many cattle, and vultures killed almost twice as many cattle as wolves in 2005.  Theft was responsible for almost 5 times the cattle losses as were lost by wolf predation.”

http://www.everythingwolf.com/news/readarticle.aspx?article=234

The Hog Heaven pack was special, one of the largest wolf packs ever recorded in Montana, (the once mighty Yellowstone Druid’s had 37 members at their peak).

Instead of trying non-lethal methods to preserve the pack, the state  eliminated them!  AND this all happened while wolves still had ESA protection!!

The anti-wolf crowd wants you to believe wolves are hanging around ranches waiting to prey on livestock, when in reality most of the miniscule depredations take place on our vast public lands, where cattle and sheep are left unprotected.

George Wuerthner, the famed ecologist, calls cows, “walking picnic baskets”. What would you do if you were a predator surrounded by an ocean of cattle and sheep?  Would you munch on them or go after more difficult prey? We already know the answer. Yet the wolf pays the ultimate price for lazy, sloppy ranching practices and the federal government’s refusal to pull public land grazing permits, even though cattle pollute streams, trample riparian zones and over graze the land.

Wolf supporters realize the unfairness of what’s happening.

In 2008, when the Hog Heaven pack was lethally removed, people spoke out:

“Gunning down an entire pack of wolves — a species that is supposed to be protected under the endangered species act — borders on criminal,” said Jerry Black of the Missoula group Wildlife Watchers.

“We are outraged by this senseless slaughter of one of nature’s most majestic animals.”

Added Whitefish resident Roger Sherman: “It seems to me the so-called ’scientific management’ of wolves boils down to simply killing them to conciliate the livestock industry.”

“Brian Vincent, communications director for the group Big Wildlife, insists that the elimination of the Hog Heaven Pack could have been avoided.”

“Why should an entire pack of wolves pay the fatal price for a situation that could probably have been avoided?” he said.

“Both agencies are acting like it’s the Wild West with all guns blazing.”

Yellowstone_Wolves

It’s too late for Hog Heaven, they’re not coming back. This unique pack, was wiped out by Wildlife Services before Montanans could react. Is it any wonder wildlife advocates question the motives behind so many wolves losing their lives for so little reason? Why are the lives of predators held so cheaply?

If the failed policies of the states and feds to “manage wolves” continue, it’s certain they will never fully recover. We’ll be left with fragmented populations of wolves, genetically isolated, constantly under the gun.

What’s behind the intolerance of wolves?  It’s certainly not because they’re killing large numbers of livestock, wolf predation on livestock is minimal.  It’s not because wolves are decimating elk populations. Elk in Montana and Idaho are strong, with numbers way up.  Idaho has 105,000 elk and Montana numbers are even higher at 150,000 plus.

Yet the war on wolves continues. This year the Sage Creek Pack and Yellowstone’s Cottonwood pack were gunned down, one wiped out by Wildlife Services and the other shot in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness at the beginning of Montana’s wolf hunt.  They join the Hog Heaven Pack and many others in the ever-increasing death toll of gray wolves.

Will it be Hog Heaven or Hog Hell for wolves in the Northern Rockies?

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Wolf photos: Courtesy Wikipedia Commons, All About Wolves, Wolf Wallpaper
Categories posted in: Montana Wolves, Wildlife Services War on Wildlife
Tags:  gray wolf, wolves or livestock, wolf intolerance, Wildlife Services, Hog Heaven Wolf Pack, National Agricultural Statistics Service
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