Help Stop the Bush Administration’s Latest Debacle: Aerial Gunning of Greater Yellowstone Wolves

Help Stop the Bush Administration’s Latest Debacle: Aerial Gunning of Greater Yellowstone Wolves

In 1995, Canada sent 35 gray wolves to the state of Idaho, to help reintroduce wolves to the Yellowstone region of the Norwest United States. Protected under the Endangered Species Act, free-living wolves flourished in the Yellowstone area of the Northern Rockies in Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. Gray wolves play a beneficial role in the ecosystem, and they also help to maintain healthy populations of raptors, rodents, and coyotes and other animals.

Now the Bush administration’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has cleared the way for states to begin aerial gunning these reintroduced wolf families as early as this fall. This disgraceful scheme, supported by a coalition of hunters and ranchers, aims to kill up to 700 wolves, which will decimate the current population of approximately 1,200. Wolves would be removed from the list of federally protected, threatened and endangered species, but the aircraft-assisted killing would begin while they are still on the list. Wolves could be shot on sight in most parts of the states, if they travel outside the safety of Yellowstone or Grand Tetons National Park.

Hasn’t Bush or the officials in these three states learned anything from shameful wolf control programs in Alaska? When the Alaska Board of Game and Department of Fish and Game moved to deploy, as The New York Times editorialized on March 14, 2004, “an air force to hunt animals” as a method of suppressing wolf populations to make moose hunting more convenient, there were audible protests around the world, and a successful travel boycott of Alaska, launched by Friends of Animals. Why do Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana officials want to step into the same firestorm of criticism by signifying their return to wrongheaded wolf persecution routines?

Following Alaska down the slippery slope of a primitive, violent, wolf slaughter scheme, federal and state officials also failed to justify their machinations with good science. The purported goal is to protect elk populations, yet there is no clear evidence of any decline in elk. Moreover, elk are coveted by hunters.

For example, in Idaho, elk populations are 20 percent above so-called management objectives, according to Idaho Fish and Game’s 2006 progress report, which stated, “Overall elk populations statewide are near all time highs.” Yet this same agency based the plan for the aerial gunning of wolves on a “trend count” in the Clearwater region, relying on astonishingly unscientific data in which eight cows were reportedly killed by wolves in the area.

This example of politics trumping science is also based on the faulty reasoning that wolves can be killed in large numbers with no biological problem, simply because their high reproductive rates and dispersal capabilities enable them to restore their populations quickly. These views are without sensitivity to shattering the lives of individual animals, or the damage it does to destroy members of a socially cohesive group.

Ranchers and hunters have spearheaded the campaign for this wolf-killing scheme, led by Idaho’s Ron Gillett, of the Idaho Anti-Wolf Coalition. Using a dead wolf as their mascot, Gillett’s group distributes “Kill a Wolf” bumper stickers and describes the animals as “land piranhas.” At one of their rallies earlier this year at the Idaho Capitol, Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter endorsed their efforts, promising that the state would kill more than 500 wolves after delisting. Added Otter, “I’m going to bid for the first ticket to shoot a wolf.” The Idaho legislature then voted to allow permits to kill wolves for only $9.75.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting public comments on their “wolf control” scheme plan until Monday, August 6, 2007. Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals advises, “The Draconian wolf-control measures these states are proposing are best left for snow removal.”

Please write to oppose the wolf control schemes. Ask the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to prevent states from initiating aerial shooting schemes — out of respect for the inherent value of the wolves, and in the interest of a thriving biocommunity in which theenvironment is protected and wolves remain free.

Ed Bangs, Western Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator

Email: Wolf RuleChange@fws.gov — include “Wolf PDM Plan Comments” in the subject line.

Phone: 406-449-5225, ext. 204

Email: nrmgraywolf@fws.gov (additional email) — include “Wolf PDM Plan Comments” in the subject line.

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