Scientists have long cautioned against the indiscriminate hunting of wolves because of the harmful effects it can have on the natural balance of an ecosystem. But this has not stopped states or the federal government from conducting a war on these beautiful native carnivores. The latest salvo is a proposed rule to strip Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the lower 48 states.
This week, a Washington Post article highlights the damage that the indiscriminate killing of wolves has already caused: the migration of coyote populations to new territories in the east, where they are quickly assuming the role of apex predator. The coyotes, the article says, surged from their original habitat in the West after government-sanctioned predator removal programs that virtually wiped out red and gray wolves.
Predictably, perhaps, but tragically, many state wildlife officials have responded to the rise in coyote populations with the same cruel and scientifically unjustified mass killing tactics used to extirpate wolves, including cash bounties, killing contests and unlimited hunting quotas.
But increasingly, states are beginning to admit that these programs do not work. Cruel killing contests have become especially controversial in this regard. In recent years, some states, including North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont, have either taken steps to ban killing contests or they have publicly declared that predator control and mass killing of coyotes are ineffective. Georgia, which waged a vicious and pointless statewide killing contest on coyotes for years, found it was a failing approach and eventually turned to educational programs to raise public awareness.
Here at the Humane Society of the United States, we have exposed the gruesome realities behind killing contests, in which contestants vie to kill the most, or heaviest, animals, and bounty programs where the state pays a reward for each kill. This is no way to control coyote populations and, as scientists point out, such culling only leads to the animals bouncing back in larger numbers.
The HSUS is now working with local governments, including, recently, the city of Atlantic Beach, Florida, on coyote management plans to humanely and effectively prevent and solve conflicts among coyotes, people and companion animals.
Science shows that maintaining wolf populations will, in turn, maintain the natural balance in areas where these native carnivores live. But state wildlife officials who are calling for federal protections against wolves to be lifted – and those who want coyotes culled using cruel means – are not taking science into consideration. Instead, they are acting at the behest of political, trophy hunting, and agricultural interests trying to put wolves in their crosshairs or traps for a trophy, out of misplaced fear or hatred, or because of trumped-up claims of the damage wolves cause to livestock – claims we have exposed as untrue in a recent report.
The fact is that wolves are still recovering and they need to maintain their federally protected status so their numbers continue to grow, and so they can stay out of the hands of hostile state management programs. The HSUS is on the front lines, working to protect native carnivores by fighting to end trophy hunting, predator control and cruel wildlife killing contests, through our investigations and through legislation. We are also engaging with grassroots advocates, scientists, veterinarians, farmers, elected officials, ethical hunters, celebrities and other conservation organizations to fight the proposed rule to delist wolves. But we cannot do this without your support. There’s still time to weigh in on the proposed federal rule delisting wolves, so please join our fight by submitting a comment opposing the proposed federal rule to delist wolves.