In the War Over Management of Wolves, The HSUS Won’t Shrink from Effort to Protect Them
In an affront to sound science and a brazen subversion of the judicial process, Republican Senators Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and John Barrasso of Wyoming introduced legislation this week to remove federal protections for wolves in the Great Lakes Region and Wyoming. Their overreaching move comes just a week after 25 Democrat senators, led by Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Barbara Boxer of California, signed a letter urging President Obama to reject any bill with an anti-wolf or anti-Endangered Species Act rider, and to allow federal protections for endangered species and court rulings that restored protections for wolves to stand. (Rep. Raul Grijavla, D-AZ, led a similar letter that included 92 House members.)
Sens. Johnson and Barrasso are supported mainly by a band of anti-wolf ideologues, but they have very little support among independent scientists, and certainly not among the millions of Americans who have contacted government officials – all the way to the President – decrying the loss of federal wolf protections. Some months ago, 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.
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.” 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). Despite it being the right sort of 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, the federal government rejected this middle-ground approach.
Last November, Michigan overwhelmingly rejected 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 the best indicators we have that increasing numbers of Americans recognize the wide range of economic and ecological benefits that wolves bring. More than 21 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 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.
It’s just reckless for Congress to start cherry-picking from the list of federally protected species, especially because such actions are so transparently political and driven by the clamor from special interests. Wolves are a much beloved wilderness icon valued by the vast majority of Americans, and with only about 5,000 of them left in the lower 48 states, they should continue to receive federal protection in the places where it’s now provided.
P.S. While some people seek to hurt wolves in gratuitous ways, forgetting that they are individual beings with their own feelings and fears, here is an uplifting rescue of a wild wolf in terrible distress. Several heroes came to the aid of this poor creature, displaying the very best of humanity.
Contact your legislators to oppose wolf delisting in the Interior Spending Bill »
Protect all wolves!!!
The wolves should remain on the ESL. They were driven to the brink of extinction in the lower 48 twice in the 20th Century. Threatened status still allows the wolves to be killed and we already know that hunters, trappers and ranchers do not play fair when it comes to wolves. We are dealing with people who want the wolves dead so they can take our public land and exploit it. There is a huge public land grab going on in the US and the wolves are in the way of special interests–hence the trophy hunting, brutal trapping and even hounding (chasing wolves with packs of dogs) in Wisconsin. Wolves have barely managed to disperse out of the Rocky Mountain and Great Lakes regions so they have not recovered their historic range (which is all of North America). Leave the ESL and wolves alone!
My Name is Rolf
My name is Rolf.
I live on an island.
A few years ago I lived elsewhere, in a forest now lost, with my lifelong mate, my pups, and several other members of my pack. I was the alpha wolf then… back in 2017.
Time passes, yet I remember. I will always remember. In my dreams my pack resides.
We were hunting that winter day, my family and I. My pups were nearly 8 months old, still in the learning stages of mastering the skills needed to take down prey. Quite suddenly we heard a loud whirling sound coming from a creature in the sky which seemed to be chasing us, I felt a sharp sting in my leg and became very tired.
This was the final day spent with my pack in our forest.
I awoke here on this island alone, no mate, no pups, no pack. I searched for them but failed. This was an extremely disconcerting time for me, how would my family carry on without me? Who would lead the hunts? Would they survive? Would the pack dissolve, leaving my mate and pups to fend for themselves, resorting to surviving on “easy prey” like cattle or sheep, getting themselves into trouble with the ones who walk upright?
They say that time heals all wounds. The scars remain as reminders of just how painful our loss has truly been.
The memories inside of my mind,
ache to be manifested into my reality once again. These scars were not necessary for anamnesis, my life long mate lives in my heart until my last breath.
There are others wolves, many, like me, torn from home and family, living on this island. Perhaps we are a population of 25 or 30. I have a new mate now, we have 3 pups. Things seem peaceful here and the food is plentiful, well, was plentiful. We have been surviving on moose which have been a surprisingly easy catch as they were weakened by ticks and unusually hot summers. This past spring their condition worsened, and many died. Indeed, many moose did not even survive last year’s harsh winter.
Winter draws near again, and like other packs here, I have not been able to provide properly for my family for several months now. We are all very hungry. Some of us have been unable to fight off illnesses due to poor nutrition.
It is cold. The snow is deep. The prey are few and far between. This is my 3rd winter here on this paradise.
It is cold, the snow is deep. We are starving. Death for many of us is imminent.
I am old now and grow strangely tired.
I am Rolf. This was my life.
Thank you, Wayne, for never giving up. Your work for animals alongside others reminds me of a quote from an SEC coach I heard about recently. He told his players, “Quit telling yourself you’re tired.” It makes all the difference to hear the leader of HSUS say at every twist and turn that we’re not going to give up, we’re going to find a way to protect animals, and we’re going to focus on the facts to win the battles for them.