When a species is removed from the endangered species list, it should be a cause for celebration. It should mean that success has been achieved, and a species that was once on the brink of being wiped out is now stable enough to live in balance with the environment. It should mean that the organizations and agencies whose responsibility it has been to nurture and protect that species have a plan in place to ensure that that species will not be pushed to the edge of extinction again. Sadly, when it comes to wolves, reality has little to do with what should be.
Wolves have only been delisted for a little over a year in Montana, Idaho, and parts of other northern Rockies states. Yet those states have already started to unravel one of the greatest conservation successes of all time by aggressively targeting wolves.
Without federal protection, wolves have been made more vulnerable to those who would kill them to protect their livestock. Defenders is working hard to show people that there is an easier way. Our projects teach ranchers and other property owners how to coexist with wolves by using nonlethal methods of keeping them away from livestock. It is slow going, trying to change the mindset that has existed in this region for decades, but we’re getting there.
Unfortunately, others have used managed hunts as a means to aggressively reduce wolf populations — something they wouldn’t do for other wildlife species. Since they were delisted in 2011, more than 500 wolves have been killed by hunters and trappers in Idaho and Montana. We’ve known for some time that once Wyoming’s wolves got booted off the endangered species list, the state would be poised to implement an aggressive, wolf-killing agenda. Now it looks like that might happen. Any day now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to remove wolves from the endangered species list in Wyoming, which means that the state’s plans could be set in motion very soon.
Wolves are being persecuted as unwanted vermin rather than being treated like the valuable native wildlife they are.
Wyoming’s current “management” plan could result in more than 100 wolves being killed through a combination of hunting and shoot-on-sight predator control outside Yellowstone National Park. That means more than a third of the state’s current wolf population could be eliminated. Only 100 wolves in a state with tens of thousands of square miles of suitable habitat. Though the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has approved this management plan, there is no scientific justification for cutting wolves down to such low numbers. In fact, no other native wildlife species are managed to a biological minimum in this way. Only wolves.
Across the northern Rockies, we’re seeing wolves being persecuted as unwanted vermin rather than being treated like the valuable native wildlife they are. It’s the same approach that led to the eradication of wolves from the region nearly a century ago, and it is still a persistent threat to wolves today.
With Wyoming getting ready to add its name to the ranks of states willing to wage war on a species just recently brought back from the brink, Defenders is saying enough is enough. We’re going to the top of the ladder and reaching out to President Obama to keep Wyoming from delisting wolves without a proper management plan in place. You can add your voice to the thousands of others in support of Wyoming wolves by sending your own letter to the president. Help us tell him that the goal of delisting a species should be to help the population continue to recover, not put it on life support.
Don’t forget to check back next week to learn more about wolves in Wyoming, and what the state’s management plan will mean for them.