Grim Milestone Highlights Need for Ongoing Federal Protection in Lower 48
SAN FRANCISCO— In a foreshadowing of how wolves will be managed across most of the lower 48 states if the Obama administration drops federal protections, 2,567 gray wolves have now been killed by hunters and trappers in the six states where wolf protections were eliminated in 2011 and 2012. As a result of aggressive hunting and trapping seasons in those states, roughly half the total known population of wolves in the lower 48 in 2013 has been killed, and wolf populations are now in decline.
“If this senseless slaughter doesn’t convince the Obama administration we need to reverse course on plans to drop wolf protections, the bloodbath will go on,” said Amaroq Weiss, a wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “States are making it very clear that they have no interest in managing wolf populations in a sustainable way. It makes no sense to strip endangered species protections from wolves just so they can once again face the human hatred and persecution that drove them to the very brink of extinction in the first place.”
Idaho and Montana have held wolf hunting or trapping seasons since federal protection was removed in 2011. By 2012, Wyoming, Minnesota and Wisconsin had followed suit, and in 2013, Michigan also allowed wolf hunting. So far 912 wolves have been killed in Idaho, 566 in Montana, 130 in Wyoming, 562 in Minnesota, 374 in Wisconsin and 23 in Michigan. The death totals are in addition to wolves that have been killed by agency staff for conflicts with livestock and wolves killed by illegal poaching.
“Our top scientists and the American public overwhelmingly support continued protection of wolves,” said Weiss, “yet the Obama administration seems hell-bent on catering to the small minority of people who want wolves dead.”
Scientists estimate that when Europeans arrived on the North American continent, as many as 2 million wolves roamed the landscape. As settlers moved west, the livestock industry refused to coexist with wolves, and the animals were all but eliminated in the lower 48 United States.
Once the gray wolf was listed under the federal Endangered Species Act, recovery plans were implemented in limited parts of the country. But in those states that have now assumed wolf-management authority, aggressive state-sanctioned hunting and trapping seasons aim to reduce wolf populations to bare minimums. In only two years the northern Rockies wolf population has been reduced by 7 percent, and Minnesota’s wolf population has plummeted by 25 percent. In a further nod to practices that nearly wiped out wolves, in December the state of Idaho allowed a wolf and coyote killing contest to be held by a private party, and that same month, the state sent a paid gunman into a designated federal wilderness area to eliminate two entire wolf packs to boost elk numbers for human hunters.