Pack of Scientists Urges Congress to Leave Wolves, ESA Alone

By on February 18, 2015 with 18 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Today, more than 50 world-renowned wildlife biologists and scientists, many of whom have devoted their entire professional careers toward understanding the social and biological issues surrounding wolves in North America, sent a letter to Congress urging members to oppose any efforts to strip federal protections for wolves in the contiguous 48 states. If Congress were to take this adverse action, according to these scientists, it would upend two recent federal court rulings, which criticized the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for distorting the “plain meaning” of the standards of the Endangered Species Act and admonished several state wildlife agencies for conducting overreaching and dangerous trophy hunting and trapping programs upon federal delisting.

The scientists, including Rolf Peterson and John Vucetich of Michigan Technological University, and Adrian Treves of University of Wisconsin, Madison, noted that “wolves are absent from most of the United States, with potentially secure populations in only a handful of states (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan). Yet, in those same states, the loss of federal protections resulted in state-sanctioned seasons on wolves at levels designed to reduce their populations to arbitrary goals, which were based on politics but not the best available science.”

Rather than removing wolves’ protections completely, there is a better way forward. A federal downlisting to “threatened” would be a far superior option, allowing “lethal management to resolve wolf-livestock conflicts.” Last month, The HSUS and 21 animal protection and conservation organizations petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reclassify gray wolves as “threatened” throughout their U.S. range south of Alaska (except the distinct Mexican gray wolf subspecies in the southwest which should remain listed as endangered). It’s the right compromise that balances the national interest in protecting wolves, while providing tools to federal and state agencies to allow selective control of wolves to address livestock and property damage.

This past fall, Michigan voted overwhelmingly against the notion of a trophy hunting season on wolves – in the first ever statewide votes on the issue of wolf hunting. Those votes – in a state with major hunting and agriculture industries – are additional indicators that increasing numbers of Americans recognize the wide range of economic and ecological benefits that wolves bring. More than 14 million people have viewed the documentary, How Wolves Change Rivers, showing how wolves move sedentary deer and elk populations so they don’t overgraze or browse. Wolves remove sick and weak animals, preventing slow starvation, and limiting deer-auto collisions and deer depredation on crops. By modulating prey herds, wolves act as a sort of barrier to chronic wasting disease and other infections that could cost the states millions of dollars to eradicate and in lost hunting license sales. And each year, thousands of wildlife watchers gaze at the world’s most-viewed wolves in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone, bringing in $35 million to the Yellowstone region annually. In the Great Lakes region, the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota, brings in as much as $3 million each year from wolf watchers.

Lawmakers should respond to common sense, sound economics, and robust science. We’ve had enough of fairy tales and fabrications and trumped up public safety charges against wolves. The reality is, they are hugely important in restoring the health of ecosystems and increasing the diversity of species. Wolves have their place, and with only about 5,000 of them in the lower 48 states, they should continue to receive federal protection.

Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Ann Nevans says:

    Wayne you have described the situation with our wolves so perfectly. You were also so astute in asking for them to be listed as threatened rather than endangered in order to stop this insane killing orgy that has taken place. I was so proud of an article I read about the wolf OR7 who strayed into California and mated and produced pups nearby who will probably come into California. In these sad days where we are watching the beginning of the end of so much that is diverse and special about our beautiful planet your measured words and constant efforts are a great comfort and hope to so many of us. Bless you for being there for the animals.

  2. David Bernazani says:

    What I find ludicrous is hunter’s circular arguments that they must hunt wolves because they reduce the deer & elk populations that they like to hunt themselves, yet they also argue that they must hunt deer & elk to “control their populations”. Wolves do a much better job at singling out the sick and weak individuals, since hunters look for the biggest and healthiest– the very opposite of what Nature needs.

    • Jerry pancheri says:

      There is a 6 square mile area by green bay, Wi managed for whitetail hunting every year they harvest mature bucks from this ares as well as some does to keep numbers in check. This is private land. Year after year they kill trophy whitetails there no help from wolves.

    • Mak says:

      Unfortunately, the most recent hunting lobby rhetoric uses “the right to hunt”, as if unrestrained killing of an individual because it exists is some kind of moral or ethical right.

      This approach will require a great deal of education of US citizens not opposed to or intolerant of the Gray Wolf, but who feel that their “rights” are threatened by federal or states’ ESA protection of the wolf in particular.

      One of the scientists signing is Dr. Marc Bekoff, who has recently co-written a book (he is a cognitive ethologist and his coauthor is a philosoher/ethicist)
      “Wild Justice; The Moral Lives of Animals.”

      I have just begun this book, but with the wealth of scientific observations and experiences shared here and elsewhere by those who have worked with animals, some of which you may have read, along with your own experiences, may help you to understand why we should never take the life of another animal without desperate need.

  3. christine says:

    I totally agree with the comment Ann Nevans said. Very will written.

  4. Janet jones kern says:

    this solution, of leaving wolves under federal protection as ‘ threatened’, while not perfect, is the most rational and logical one. However, those who want to ‘ delist’ the wolves entirely, do not want nor will they accept any measure of compromise on the issue. They seem truly obsessed with their single minded determination to prevail at all costs in this battle .
    I fear the strong arm of the powerful lobbyist of the NRA
    will prevail,

  5. Dr. Tony Povilitis says:

    Excellent piece, Wayne. But even if wolves are not delisted by Congress our national park wolves will continue to be slaughtered by trophy hunts on nearby federal lands. Dear friends – Tell the President you want that stopped! Go to the White House petition page:

  6. Janice Sampo says:

    Listen to the Scientists!!!

  7. Scott Slocum says:

    Good point: the best way of assisting livestock owners to avoid wolf-livestock conflicts would be through the use of non-lethal methods. As necessary, lethal methods are sometimes necessary as a backup (and they’re allowed where wolves are listed as “threatened”).

    However (as Janet Jones Kern pointed out here in an earlier comment), this and other good points are being ignored by those who are obsessed with delisting; who will only acknowledge the lethal methods. They know about the non-lethal methods, but they’re keeping quiet about them, and they’re hoping everyone else will be, too.

    • Scott Slocum says:

      Note that the scientists did not propose the lower-48 “threatened” status. That’s a controversial HSUS proposal.

  8. Ettwiller Anita says:


  9. Mutt says:

    Then Scott, WHAT did the scientists propose?

    These same scientists also claimed years ago that the ESA was needed, Have to have, wolves won’t have a chance without it! so these best scientists came up with population numbers for states and once reached the states could control the wolves as long as the wolves don’t fall below those numbers. NOW all of a sudden the ESA doesn’t fit their “Best Science” so they want to change the rules even though the wolves in every state are nowhere near the minimum number the “best science” said was enough. Just like shopping for a judge that will agree with them, their “peer reviewed” studies mean NOTHING! when the only people reviewing them are in the same camp as the author.

  10. Darlene Abbott says:

    Pease help our Wolves lived

  11. Craig Hiler says:

    After reading dozens of comments from those who want delisting. It is apparent the majority of them don’t like wolves because they prey on “their” deer and elk. As pointed out by several others in previous posts, the wolves primsrilt prey on the weak or sick. Quite the opposite of a hunters target, looking for the biggest bull for a bragging rights trophy. These same hunters don’t mind an overpopulation of deer as that will just make their hunting easier.

  12. Chris vd Griend says:

    Just let nature be.Stop murdering wolves!!(Trophy)hunters are disgusting heartless idiots.Bloodthirsty weak morons.Leave wolves and all wildlife alone!

  13. Chris vd Griend says:

    Before Europeans arrived there nature was doing fine.It disgusts me that wolves were almost hunted to extinction and still they aren’t safe.Stop wolf hunts now!!!!!

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