A better way to handle wolves

The Humane Society of the United States and 21 other organizations — including the Detroit Zoo, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Wisconsin Federated Humane Societies and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians — have petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to down-list wolves from "endangered" to "threatened" status across most of their range in the lower 48 states.

We took this action to maintain crucial federal protections for the fragmented populations numbering just 5,000 or so wolves in the lower 48 states, and to give federal and state wildlife agencies more latitude to manage the occasional rare conflicts between wolves and people.

This action comes in the wake of two recent federal court rulings, in litigation brought by our group and others, that restored federal protections for wolves in the Great Lakes region and in Wyoming — a significant portion of their current range in the U.S. In response to these court rulings, which rebuked the Fish and Wildlife Service for its piecemeal delisting of wolf populations in select portions of their range, anti-wolf politicians are beating the drums for Congress to intervene and delist wolves entirely.

Our plan respects the purpose and intent of the Endangered Species Act, but gives a nod to the folks who want more active control options for wolves, especially ranchers. But our plan does this without ceding control of wolf management decisions to state agencies that have consistently demonstrated an overreaching and cruel hand in dealing with wolves. These state agencies have caved in to the interests of trophy hunters, trappers and ranchers and not properly handled their responsibility to care for animals.

"The ecological benefit of this keystone species is staggering — gray wolves counteract negative impacts of overpopulation of prey species, have an important moderating influence on other predator species, and protect and facilitate ecosystem health," our petition to the Fish and Wildlife Service reads. "The wolf is one of our nation's most effective and important protectors of biodiversity in the environments in which it is found."

Wolves also provide enormous economic benefits. The presence of wolves has been a lure for tens of thousands of people who trek to Yellowstone and other wolf ranges to see a wild wolf. Wolves are a potential ecotourism boon throughout where they are found now and the areas they are likely to recolonize in the future.

And while wolves kill some sheep and cattle, they kill far more native hooved animals, keeping deer and elk in balance – removing sick and weak animals, preventing slow starvation, and limiting deer-auto collisions and deer depredation on crops.

What's more, a peer-reviewed study from researchers at Washington State University demonstrated that random trophy killing and even depredation of wolves may not have the intended population control effect, and may spur more wolf breeding. In short, what the states had been doing prior to the court rulings — killing large numbers of wolves, most at random — was actually worsening the problem, not solving it.

Of all of the large predators in the world, wolves appear to be among the least dangerous — with no known attacks by a healthy wolf on a person in the lower 48 states. Yet, a small subset of people in the United States still fear and loath these animals, more because of myth than fact or science.

Our proposal is a rational middle-ground approach that balances wolf protection with the practical realities of dealing with the occasional problem wolf, and it provides a reasonable pathway forward on what has been a controversial issue. Congress and the Obama administration should embrace this compromise solution, and reject the extreme efforts of some anti-wolf politicians to eliminate all federal protections for wolves by legislative fiat.

Wayne Pacelle is president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

 


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Press Releases: Dec 14, 2016

In the 2014 general election, Michigan voters soundly rejected two referendums on the trophy hunting and trapping of the state’s small population of wolves. But now, the Michigan legislature has rushed through another bill, SB 1187, to once again designate wolves as a game species to be hunted and trapped—in spite of that public rejection of an almost identical measure at the ballot box just two years ago...


Endorsements

Keep Wolves Protected is endorsed by a number of organizations and citizens including:

  • Kalamazoo Humane Society
  • Pamela Graves, DVM
  • Detroit Audubon Society
  • Michigan Animal Shelter Rescue Network
  • Aaron Payment, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians
  • Voiceless-MI
  • Humane Society of Huron Valley
  • Detroit Zoological Society

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