Wolves Being Hammered On Two Fronts

It’s not a good time to be a gray wolf in the Northern Rockies.  They are being hunted for the first time since their reintroduction in 1995 AND 21 entire wolf packs were wiped out in 2008 by Wildlife Services, the federal agency that killed almost five million animals and birds in 08, for agriculture.

Mere months after the Obama Administration’s Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, delisted wolves in the Northern Rockies, Idaho and Montana initiated wolf hunts. Now wolves are running for their lives from hunters AND Wildlife Services, in the escalating War On Wolves.

As a rancher, landowner, and member of the Cattlemen’s Association, Salazar comes from the old school generation, which believes prairie dogs are nothing but worthless pests and wolves are only seen as vicious animals that prey on cows and sheep. We need an Interior Secretary, who can make wildlife management decisions based on science, not politics, or personal bias.”

Montana and Idaho’s rush to hold wolf hunts so soon after wolves were delisted, speaks volumes about wolf politics in the West.  Compare Minnesota, who has 3000 wolves and a much smaller land mass then Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Yet game managers in the “North Star State” have said if or when the wolf was ever delisted in Minnesota, they would wait FIVE YEARS, with lots of public comment, before even considering a wolf hunt or whether to have one at all.  That is sound management, reasonable management.  The western states could learn something from Minnesota about living with wolves.

Montana’s hunt ended on November 17.   Seventy two wolves fell to hunter’s bullets and three more were poached in the North Fork of the Flathead.  But wolves are still in trouble in Montana.  Wildlife Services has been give the green light from Montana FWP to take out the Mitchell Mountain wolf pack, who’s territory encompasses the Sieben Ranch, north of Helena.  The ranch is owned and run by John Baucus, brother to Senator Baucus.  This is a huge ranch, approx 125,000 acres bought by Henry Sieben, in 1897.  The Mitchell Mountain wolf pack killed guard dogs on the Sieben ranch, which is part of the pack’s territory.  It’s well known dispersing wolves, at this time of year, can be aggressive toward dogs, who they consider competition.  For that an entire wolf pack must die???

Recent letter writing campaigns, initiated by Defenders of Wildlife, NRDC and other environmental groups, have appealed to  President Obama and Ken Salazar to call of the guns, yet the message seems to have fallen on deaf ears. 

Wildearth Guardians filed a petition to ask President Obama to issue an executive order ending the poisoning and aerial gunning of our carnivores on public lands.

WildEarth Guardians asked President Barack Obama to issue an Executive Order and/or that the Departments of Interior and Agriculture develop an administrative-rulemaking process to implement a new management paradigm for native carnivores on the Nation’s public lands.

The petition highlights the science documenting the critical role that carnivores play in ecosystems and also asserts that lethal control methods reflect an outdated value system that inappropriately elevates livestock production above wildlife.”

Wolves are being hammered on two fronts in Idaho and Montana.  Hunters killed 122 wolves in Idaho, with 98 more slated to die in the hunt.  Idaho Fish and Game commissioners, extended the wolf hunt, FOR THE ENTIRE STATE, minus the three closed zones,  through wolf breeding and denning season.  A SEVEN MONTH LONG HUNT, ending March 31, 2010.   

Meanwhile Wildlife Services continues their deadly toll on wolves in the Northern Rockies.  In 2008, TWO HUNDRED AND SIXTY FOUR WOLVES were killed by WS for the livestock industry.   8 packs in Idaho, 9 packs in Montana and 4 packs in Wyoming, all dead in ONE YEAR.  Why the carnage?  Ask ranchers how many cattle they lose to reproduction, disease and weather?  Heck, 75,000 cattle die each year across the West from ALTITUDE DISEASE.  Are wolves responsible for that too? 

It’s not wolves killing all the cattle.  In 2005 carnivores were responsible for just 0.18% of cattle deaths but that fact doesn’t seem to matter.  The states monitor wolves like they are dangerous criminals.  Data is constantly collected from private citizens or hunters about wolf sightings. Ranchers report suspected wolf kills on livestock, WS tracks wolves with flyovers, trapping and collaring and even track and howl surveys.  The states spend thousands upon thousands of dollars harassing a species that just want to roam and be wolves.  When are we EVER going to talk about what’s best for wolves or the people that care about them and want to view them in the wild?  When??

How many ranchers leave their cattle and sheep to graze on public lands and don’t monitor them? Why aren’t wolves given any quarter on the land they’ve roamed for thousands of years?  This is THEIR HOME…not cattle, who are being raised for food. These are not beloved family pets but animals slated to die a cruel death in a slaughterhouse and end up on someone’s dinner plate as hamburger.  This is the very reason I don’t eat meat.  The easiest way to become a vegetarian is to watch an undercover slaugtherhouse video.  I can tell you it’s much more graphic and disturbing then wolf predation. 

The first rule of business is protect your investment.  It’s the rancher’s responsibility to watch over their livestock in wolf country, not the American taxpayer, who picks up the tab for Wildlife Services war on wolves and other wildlife.

The lawsuit, brought by environmental groups to restore gray wolf protections, is making it’s way through federal court in Missoula, Montana and scheduled to be heard sometime after the first of the year.  It can’t come soon enough for me.  Judge Molloy stated the plaintiffs will likely prevail on the overall litigation,  even though he denied the injunction to stop the hunts.

In the meantime, wolves are dodging  hunters bullets in Idaho while the ever present threat of Wildlife Services hangs over them.  How did things get so bad so quickly?  Can anyone even imagine how much worse it could get if we don’t speak out and stand up for wolves?

Contact the wolf managers and let them know you’re not happy with current wolf policy and would like to see a new paradigm where wolves are valued for their contribution as apex predators, not viewed as a nuisance to be managed for the livestock industry!

Montana Wolf Managers…click here

Idaho Fish and Gameclick here

Wildlife Services……Jim Lukens 1-208=756-2271

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Posted in: howling for justice,  Idaho wolf hunt, Wildlife Services War on Wildlife, wolf wars

Tags: aerial gunning of wolves, wolves or livestock, wolf extermination, wolf myths

 
 

Wolf Pack Memorial Page

Please note the Wolf Memorial Page on the top right under pages. Click here  

Updated 12/27  (I’m continually updating this list, it’s slow going and sad work BUT these wolves must be remembered!!

Thanksgiving Week Massacre of Basin Butte Wolves…..Stanley, Idaho

A Basin Butte wolf pup, 6 months old.

All Photos by Idaho WildWolf Images Copyright 2008.

December 6, 2009

This is an account of Idaho’s popular Basin Butte wolves and their tragic end, as told to me by Idaho friends.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thanksgiving week 2009, everyone was busy planning their holiday with family. It was a time for reflection and thanks. But over a two day period, November 23 & 24,  at Stanley, Idaho, Wildlife Services launched a covert operation that is now known as the Thanksgiving Week Massacre. Wildlife Services (WS) is a misnamed federal agency that kills wildlife for the benefit of agriculture, mainly the livestock industry.

Locals watched in horror as WS agents, in a plane and red helicopter, chased down and shot dead seven members of the Basin Butte wolf pack. Two wolves were killed on a rancher’s private property, the rest on National Forest land.  Among the Thanksgiving week victims were the pack’s mother, B171 “Alpha Fe”, her three seven-month old PUPS and three other wolves. A total of ELEVEN Basin Butte wolves have been killed since late July.

Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountain country, called the Sawtooth National Recreation Area(SNRA), was once in line for National Park status. Instead, in 1972, it became an “NRA” (National Recreation Area). As a result, cattle and sheep graze across much of the 756,000 acres. Cattle ranchers have tremendous political power in this area, which is the reason for the Basin Butte wolves demise on that fateful Thanksgiving week shoot-out.

Background:

The Basin Butte wolf pack was formed in 2006 with three adults and five pups. Wolf supporters stepped in to keep the wolves away from the thousands of cattle that summer in the high country around Stanley, Idaho. This continued for the next three years. There were no depredations in 2007, but some close calls. Sick or injured cows and calves are easy targets for wolves. Things started going to hell in 2008 after a ranch hand shot a Basin Butte wolf called “Little Sis”. She was hunting squirrels 200 yards away from a herd of cows. The cow hand was given a warning by Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game (IDFG) law enforcement, which apparently upset the hand’s boss, a powerful rancher.

Basin Butte wolf “Little Sis”

Next, the pack, now consisting of 13 wolves, were seen moving toward a remote area, behind private property. Suddenly the wolves were accused of killing cows and calves belonging to the irate rancher. In July 2008, Wildlife Services convinced IDFG to give the ok to spring into their deadly trapping and killing mode. Before the 2008 grazing season was over, up to 8 Basin Butte wolves were dead. One beautiful wolf, “Uncle” – the babysitter to the pack’s pups, was mangled and crippled, shot by a Wildlife Services agent using an automatic 12 gauge.

One last winter:

The wolves had one last winter in the scenic country they called home. Many locals and visitors alike, delighted in seeing the wolves and hearing them howl. The pack was highly visible, as the Druids are in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone. The wolves were known by their given names: Alpha Fe, Papa, Bobtail, Red, Marymag, Smoky and more.

Tourists come in winter to Stanley, a tiny town of 100 people and one of the coldest places in the Lower 48, to ski, wildlife watch, snowmobile and see the Basin Butte wolves. But, it’s still tough for businesses to make it, and many locals were hoping wolf viewing would eventually bring more tourists and their dollars. Summer is the only time when tourists come in numbers, over two million people, according to SNRA staff. Wolf watching is the untapped golden egg that could make Stanley boom in the winter months, especially since much of the terrain around town is wide open. It’s perfect for setting up spotting scopes and watching wolves. But in 2009, the ranchers and Wildlife Services had other plans.  When wolf supporters scared the wolves away from cattle on public land, the ranchers went to law enforcement and complained. Surveillance cameras were set up by the local deputy to try and catch anyone driving by or stopping near the cattle, even on PUBLIC land!

The wolves were accused of killing a calf and a cow in July. Wildlife Services, who had been lurking around Stanley waiting for action, trapped and shot two yearling wolves. The angry rancher allowed WS to cross his private property, so they could access a remote area where traps could be set, mostly out of view of the public.

Then on September 1, Idaho opened their seven month long hunting season, adding to the Basin Butte Pack’s problems. Two pack members were shot by hunters. One was the Basin Butte alpha male, and another was a pup. The little pup was shot by an employee of the rancher.

October arrived, the weather turned freezing cold, with rain and snow. The pack was accused of killing two more cows. The cows may have been sick or hurt, no one knows. With thousands of cattle, some are always on the decline but now the stage was set for an aerial massacre. You know the rest of this tragic story. Two wolves are said to have survived. They have been heard howling mournfully for their pack.

Basin Butte “Uncle Wolf”

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There are 71 million wildlife watchers in the United States., who generate 45 billion dollars in revenue.. Wildlife viewers come to Idaho to watch wolves and other wildlife, not livestock. Slaughtering wolves is bad for Idaho’s reputation and hurtful to state tourism.

We don’t control what ranchers do on their private land BUT the American public has the right to demand fair PUBLIC LAND policy.. This land belongs to all our citizens, not just ranchers.

Americans do not want wildlife eradicated for the livestock industry. Ranchers must be held accountable for managing their livestock.

Like any business venture, ranching has risks. If ranchers aren’t willing or able to care for their investment, without using the federal government as their own wolf extermination service, they should get their cattle off our public lands. 66% of Idaho is public land. Wolves are native to the SNRA, not cattle. Why should the wolf pay the ultimate price because of sloppy ranching practices, or be subjugated to cattle?

Myself and my friends, are BOYCOTTING Idaho products, businesses, including big game outfitters until this wolf killing madness stops.

SPEAK UP AND PROTEST THE THANKSGIVING WEEK SLAUGHTER!

Idaho Wildlife Services has a long list of wolf packs in their sights, will the killing be repeated this winter with a green light from IDFG?

Please E-Mail Idaho Governor Butch Otter and the IDFG wolf managers:

 http://gov.idaho.gov/WebRespond/contact_form.html

cal.groen@idfg.idaho.gov

 jon.rachael@idfg.idaho.gov

 jim.lukens@idfg.idaho.gov

jim.unsworth@idfg.idaho.gov

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STOP WOLF KILLING

Petition From change.org…Please sign.

http://www.change.org/actions/view/stop_wolf_killing

Posted in: Wildlife Services War on Wildlife, aerial gunning of wolves, Wolf Wars

Tags: aerial gunning of wolves, wolves in the crossfire, wolf extermination

Did The Basin Butte Wolves Deserve To Die?

More on the Basin Butte wolf killings. WS is confirming they took out seven members of the pack on Nov 23 and 24 for livestock depredation. It’s the same old story. Cows die, wolves die. I’m so sick of hearing about this. More and more wolf packs are being taken out by WS as we sit helplessly by. Where is the oversight? Taxpayer dollars are being used for these lethal actions. 

 I’m seriously going to make a list of all the dead wolf packs taken out by WS in the past two years and post it on this blog. 

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Shooting Wolves in a Barrel

Adam Cotterell (2009-12-03)

http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/idaho/news.newsmain/article/0/0/1584744/Top.Stories/Shooting.Wolves.in.a.Barrel

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Categories posted in: Wildlife Services War on Wildlife, Wolf Wars, aerial gunning of wolves

Tags: aerial gunning of wolves, Wildlife Services, wolves or livestock

Idaho Basin Butte Wolves Gunned Down

Basin Butte wolves, Stanley, Idaho were gunned down by Wildlife Services. Who is Wildlife Services?…click here.

I am appalled and saddened by this action.  Why would Idaho state game managers order this killing when the wolf hunting season is in full swing?  Is this another method of reaching the wolf quota?  How much more wolf death is there going to be? When will the national press pick up this story?

From Ralph Maughan:

“You might want to call Jim Lukens, the Salmon area regional supervisor and ask him. (208) 756-2271. Approval of Wildlife Services wolf kills has been parceled out to the regional supervisors, like Mark Gamlin (who seems to have few to no wolves in his district).”

AND

Please use these contacts to express your outrage over this action:

Developing Story………….

Photo:  James Balog

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Aerial-gunning foes ask Obama to ban practice

By JOHN MILLER (AP) – 12 hours ago

“USDA Wildlife Services officials didn’t immediately respond to e-mail and telephone requests for comment. The division, with a budget of about $120 million, reported killing some 4.9 million animals in 2008 in efforts to control predators and invasive species.a”

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5i26O0MdsqnucNFl0FBQlQHPLtZ-QD9C83S9G0

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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

Author: WildEarth Guardians
Contact: WildEarth Guardians (505) 988-9126
Email:
 wkeefoverring@wildearthguardians.org
http://www.wildearthguardians.org/library/paper.asp?nMode=2&nLibraryID=814

Read the petition (PDF)

See WildEarth Guardians’ report

See See Wildlife Services’ Exterminates 125% More Animals in 2008

Learn about the Wildlife Services’ Whistleblower Aerial-Gunning Complaint

View Aerial Gunning Accidents Records by USDA, States, and Individuals

See Wildlife Services Expenditures and History (PDF)

Posted in: Wildlife Services War on Wildlife, Wolf Wars, aerial gunning of wolves

Tags: wolves in the crossfire, aerial gunning of wolves

  

USDA Sheep Experiment Station Should Be Closed

October 2, 2009

Why is the Department of Agriculture running a 100,000 acre sheep ranch in the middle of wolf country? They call it a Sheep Experiment Station? What’s the experiment, to see how many wolves can get in trouble over a huge flock of sheep?

USDA’s Sheep Experiment Station was directly tied to the recent aerial gunning of The Sage Creek Wolf Pack. According to The Center for Biological Diversity, the pack originally got in trouble because they killed one sheep from the station. Talk about temptation, does anyone blame wolves for preying on sheep when they’re planted right in the middle of a major wildlife corridor between Montana and Idaho?

The Center has already sued the feds over those sheep and consider them to be a major roadblock to wolf recovery.

Apparently this station has been around a long time, since the beginning of the 19th century. Their stated mission is: “to develop integrated methods for increasing production efficiency of sheep and to simultaneously improve the sustainability of rangeland ecosystems.” Uh-huh. What does that even mean? I know what it means for wolves, T-R-O-U-B-L-E.

Please take action for wolves and follow this link to an Action Alert by The Center For Biological Diversity.  Ask Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to close the Sheep Station and stop the gunning of wolves in Montana/ Idaho.

http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/2167/t/5243/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=153

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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4 Wolves Gunned Down By Feds Near USDA Sheep Experiment Station

Written by Rhishja Larson

Published on October 9th, 2009

wolf-snow

Aerial sharpshooters with the U.S. Department of Agriculture have killed four wolves in Montana for preying on sheep in the secretive Sheep Experiment Station.

The last four wolves of the Sage Creek Pack were gunned down this week by USDA aerial sharpshooters, after the wolves had been targeted for preying on sheep in the 100,000+ acre USDA Sheep Experiment Station (USSES) west of Yellowstone National Park.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the killing of wolves in the wildlife corridor connecting Yellowstone to central Idaho is the reason the wolves’ removal from the endangered species list was reversed in court last year. The taxpayer-funded Sheep Experiment Station grazes thousands of sheep in southwestern Montana and southeastern Idaho, and its elimination would help the survival of wolves and other wildlife in this crucial habitat corridor.

Sheep experiment station avoids environmental analysis for decades

The mission of the Sheep Experiment Station, according to the USDA/ARS website, is “to develop integrated methods for increasing production efficiency of sheep and to simultaneously improve the sustainability of rangeland ecosystems.”

However, since its establishment in 1915, the USSES had sidestepped environmental analysis – even after the 1970 enactment of the National Environmental Policy Act – and had allegedly been operating outside of environmental law for decades.

By avoiding external review, the Sheep Station was able to graze thousands of sheep for over 90 years without any environmental analysis or consideration of endangered species, such as Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, lynx, gray wolves, and grizzly bears.

Thanks to a 2008 settlement brought about by a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit, the taxpayer-funded USSES is now required to analyze the environmental effects of sheep grazing under the National Environmental Policy Act – and to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the impacts of the sheep grazing on threatened and endangered species.

http://ecoworldly.com/2009/10/09/4-wolves-gunned-down-by-feds-near-usda-sheep-experiment-station

Photo: Courtesy Wikimedia Common

Posted in: aerial gunning of wolves,  Wolf Wars

Tags: wolves in the crossfire, wolves or livestock, aerial gunning of wolves, sheep experiment station, Sage Creek Pack

Sage Creek Pack Wiped Out By Aerial Gunners in Montana

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.

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aerial gunning of wolves

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

Idaho Man Shoots At Wolf Pack….FROM THE SKY!!

Photo of a motorized parachute/Wikimedia Commons

October 2, 2009

Let me get this straight, four years ago, Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, joined by sheep ranchers and the Idaho congressional delegation persuaded the Federal Aviation Administration  to allow aerial gunning of foxes and coyotes by anyone with a pilots license and a light plane?  So a mechanized parachute riding, shotgun toting, sheep rancher thought he could just shoot a pack of wolves from the air?  Apparently he didn’t know wolves weren’t on the list of  “varmits” he could shoot.  Yeah.

The bigger question is why Idaho is not taking action against this  person?  He broke the law!

The response of  State Sen. Jeff Siddoway-R, who just happens to own sheep, is classic.  Instead of calling for charges to be brought against the parachutist sheep hunter, he’s instead  announced  he’s going to  introduce  a bill in the Idaho legislature, expanding aerial gunning to gray wolves as well.

Aerial gunning of any creature must be banned!!  Why are states allowed to gun down animals from the air?  Didn’t congress pass a law banning the practice?   Oh wait, there’s a loophole in the law.  It states:

The federal legislation (PDF) does have a loophole for predator  control, permitting state employees or licensed individuals to shoot from an aircraft for the sake of protecting “land, water, wildlife, livestock, domesticated animals, human life, or crops.”

Read the whole article:

Aerial Wolf Gunning 101: http://www.slate.com/id/2199140/

Here we are right back to livestock interests versus the wolves.  I guess the only answer is for conservationists (or anyone that believes wolves, bears, cougars and other apex predators have the right to exist without a gun to their heads) should run for state and local government office in Idaho and Montana, adding their voices to a one-sided discussion.

Does anyone believe Idaho is doing a good job of managing gray wolves? Anyone?

Please write to the Federal Aviation Administration letting them know aerial gunning of any animal is cruel and barbarous.  NO AERIAL GUNNING OF WOLVES FOR ANY REASON!!

U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20591
1-866-TELL-FAA (1-866-835-5322)http://www.faa.gov/contact/

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The Olympian /Published October 01, 2009

Idaho man illegally shot at wolf pack from the sky

JOHN MILLER

A shotgun-wielding motorized parachutist fired on a pack of wolves earlier this year from the eastern Idaho sky, something forbidden even under a state permit that allows aerial gunning of foxes and coyotes.

Carl Ball, a sheep rancher, was flying his aircraft June 5 near St. Anthony above a 160-acre sheep pen when he saw at least four wolves, according to an Idaho Department of Fish and Game law enforcement report obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.

Ball reported he shot at the wolves after they’d already left the pen and said he believed one animal outfitted with a radio collar had been killed, though state and federal wildlife officials who arrived hours later never found a wolf carcass.

“He shot the wolf at least two times on subsequent flyovers. He believed the wolf had crawled under some brush and died,” regional conservation officer John Hanson wrote in his report. “He has a hunting license, pilot’s license and an aerial gunning permit from the Department of Agriculture.”

Four years ago, then-Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, Idaho’s congressional delegation and sheep ranchers persuaded Federal Aviation Administration officials to allow licensed pilots to shoot coyotes and other wild predators while flying overhead in ultralight flying machines.

Rifle- and pistol-packing pilots of dirigibles, balloons, gliders, flying trikes, gyroplanes and powered parachutes can take a few hours of instruction and get an Idaho Sheep Commission-issued permit to shoot varmints from the heavens.

But even though the federal government earlier this year lifted Endangered Species Act protections from more than 1,000 wolves in Idaho and Montana, and both states have legal hunting seasons, that’s only for people shooting from the ground or trees.

Blasting wolves from the sky remains off limits because state wildlife managers consider them big game animals, not predators.

Ball didn’t return a phone call seeking comment Thursday.

But state Sen. Jeff Siddoway, a Republican from Terreton who owns the 160-acre sheep pen where the incident occurred, said Ball called him that morning from a cell phone while circling above the wolves with his gun loaded with No. 4 shot. Siddoway, in turn, contacted big game manager Brad Compton of the Fish and Game Department and contends he was told shooting a wolf from a powered parachute was allowed under a valid aerial gunning permit.

“He said, ‘Go ahead,'” Siddoway recalled. “We do it at our leisure for coyotes. This was just the first time we did it for a wolf.”

It wasn’t until later in the day, Siddoway maintains, that another state official informed him the permit didn’t cover aerial wolf gunning.

Compton didn’t immediately return a phone call, but Jim Unsworth, Fish and Game’s deputy director, said his agency most certainly didn’t give Siddoway the green light to shoot wolves from the sky.

“Brad or I probably told him he could legally protect his livestock,” Unsworth said. “But I don’t think anybody told him to shoot it out of a powered parachute.”

The state agency investigated the incident, Unsworth said, but opted to drop the case, in part because no dead wolf was ever found.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Mike Fergus in Renton, Wash., said his agency wasn’t aware of the incident.

Wildlife activists said the confusion over whether wolves are legitimate aerial gunning targets underscores the absurdity of allowing people to use kit-built and experimental flying contraptions to kill animals.

“The fact that wolves have been delisted, people probably believe they can just go after them now,” said Wendy Keefover-Ring, the Denver-based coordinator of a national coalition of environmental groups aiming to halt aerial shooting. “We have the confluence of two bad policies coming together: the new allowances (for airborne hunting) and also the delisting of wolves under the Endangered Species Act.”

Meanwhile, Siddoway is planning to introduce a bill in the Idaho Legislature next year to expand animals covered by the aerial permits to include wolves, too. The wolves didn’t kill any of his rams that June morning, Siddoway concedes, but more than 100 of his roughly 18,000 ewes, lambs and rams in Idaho and Wyoming have been killed by the big predators this year.

“It’s insane that I would have to ask for permission over my own ground,” he said.

http://www.theolympian.com/northwest/story/989843.html

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Categories posted in:  Aerial gunning of wolves, Wolf Wars

Tags: wolves or livestock, aerial gunning of wolves, Jeff Siddoway

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