Sad Time For Wolf Advocates….

The wolf hunt in Idaho continues. My heart is heavy thinking about the packs that have been disrupted, the pups that have been killed or left as orphans to starve. I think of the pregnant alphas that will be shot as wolf breeding season is under way and wolves will be returning to their den sites in mid to late March in Idaho, well before the hunt ends. This is a disaster for wolf recovery in so many ways.

Wolves do not need to be managed. Lets be frank, managing wolves is a euphemism for killing them. Wolves are natural dispersers. They will seek new territory in search of good hunting grounds, if only they could cross state lines and claim new territory without being shot. They don’t need the states of Idaho, Montana or Wyoming to tell them how to be wolves. 

We’re killing wolves because ranchers have too much power in the West.  We’re killing wolves because elk hunters complain wolves are wiping out elk, which is patently untrue. I’ve refuted this so many times I feel like tatooing it on my forehead. But unfortunately state game agency budgets are funded by hunting fees, so wolves are culled to increase elk populations and please hunters. We’re killing wolves because many outfitters don’t like them.  Why do these groups have more clout then the rest of us? 

There doesn’t seem to be much conflict between wolf and man in Minnesota, with their large wolf population. When polled, the majority of Minnesotans support the wolf and want it to do well.  Western wolf  “managers” state the reason wolves are doing better in Minnesota is because the state has a dense deer population, large forests and few public land disputes. Well I agree on the public land disputes. I disagree that we don’t have enough game or forests to go around in the West.  The reason there are problems living with the wolf in the West is because a small group of people, that are anti-wolf, have tremendous political clout here. If you asked most Americans if they approve of wolf hunts the answer would be a resounding no. BUT because a small minority want wolves “managed”, the rest of us have to tolerate this brutal, senseless killing.  Montana, Idaho and Wyoming  could take a few lessons from Minnesotans on how live with wolves.

These things I do know.  Wolves are suffering and dying brutal, cruel deaths. The stability and structure of many packs have been disrupted.  The average age of wolves will be younger with the loss of alphas and older wolves. In effect all wolves are being forced to play Russian Roulette. Spin the barrel and shoot. Every wolf is at risk of being killed if the hunts continue, since the killing is indiscriminate. Younger wolves don’t have the hunting skills of older more experienced animals.  There will be a greater temptation for them to attack livestock as an easy kill. Which will lead to more wolves being killed by Wildlfe Services in the name of  livestock. 

The benefit of having an apex predator cull ungulate herds will be changed.  Hunters kill stronger, healthier ungulates, wolves kill easier prey, the sick, the weak, the old. They improve the health of the herd.  Wolves do a far better job managing ungulates then man.  The elk owes it’s fleetness of foot to the wolf, who has chased them through time.

It’s very clear the people that “manage” wolves aren’t paying attention to the science. They think it’s OK if wolves just replace themselves, every year.  Who cares about individual wolves or packs? They’re just focused on the numbers. That’s not how it should work. Wolves are highly organized social animals, there is order in the pack. They’re smart, they solve problems, yet they are being treated like deer and elk. WOLVES ARE NOT DEER OR ELK AND SHOULD’NT BE TREATED AS SUCH!!  It’s ridiculous.    

I know this is falling on deaf ears in the “management” community. The Idaho wolf hunt marches on.  If Judge Molloy finds for the plaintiffs and wolves ESA protections are restored  it will just be just a matter of time before Wyoming gets it’s act together and comes up with a plan similar to Idaho and Montana. Then we’ll be right back to square one, with wolves in the cross hairs.  The only way to have a different outcome is to address the science, which means there has to be proven genetic connectivity between the three Northern Rockies wolf sub-populations and I submit, killing over five hundred wolves in 2009 did not increase the likelihood of that.  Into this mix add Wildlife Services, who wipes out entire packs of wolves causing their genes to be lost forever. 

Yellowstone wolf numbers have dropped below 1oo, increasing the risk they could be vulnerable to inbreeding,  like the Isle Royale wolves, who are plagued by spinal deformities.

If Judge Molloy’s ruling encompasses more then Wyoming,  if it includes the genetics, then wolves may have a fighting change to stay listed for quite some time.  Then, just maybe we can redefine wolf recovery and stop playing the numbers game.

These are dark days for wolf advocates. Personally I abhor the designation of wolves as game animals to be shot for sport. They are so  much more then that.  They are a symbol and icon of freedom for so many Americans, people that appreciate the stark beauty and haunting presence of the wolf inhabiting what’s left of our wild lands.  This is a very sad time for wolf advocates. 

Photo wolf nursing her pups: Wikimedia Commons

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

Tags:  Esa lawsuit wolves, biodiversity, wolf extermination

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