Wolves are no longer federally protected in Idaho!
The Defenders of Wildlife, the group whose patient, calm and thoughtful campaign helped lead to wolf reintroduction in 1995, has a different approach now that wolf numbers in the region are at 1,600 and growing.
Its press release was headlined: “Wolves in the cross hairs again.”
Rodger Schlickeisen, its president said he was “outraged and dismayed.”
The rhetoric is similar to last year but the facts have changed and I’m not surprised Schlickeisen is dismayed. It’s no longer the Bush administration that is pushing delisting. That makes fund-raising on the issue a lot harder.
The focus is no longer on Wyoming’s bad behavior and even Idaho and Montana are becoming only a smaller part of a national debate. Wolves also were delisted in the Great Lakes where more than 4,000 are running around and environmentalists plan to sue to reverse that decision too. No hunting planned there.
Now the debate is about delisting only a portion of the nation’s wolf population. That focuses attention on the places where there are no wolves. It focuses the attention on wolf genetics throughout the continent.
Are there wolves in Maine? In the Adirondacks? How about the Sierras? Some may ask, actually Rep. Mike Simpson has asked, what is Defenders doing about that?
Back to the rhetoric. Defenders suggests that today that the Northern Rockies wolf population is more likely to be gunned down by helicopter gunners working for the federal government now than when they were listed.
In fact, the Idaho Fish and Game Department has put on the shelf its helicopter gunning plan to reduce wolves in the Lolo area to aid elk. They won't bring it back unless the wolves are relisted.
In other words, the Fish and Game Commission won't spend tens of thousands of dollars it doesn't have to hire helicopter gunners unless the environmentalists win their lawsuit. The commissioners always have preferred to manage wolves like they do other game animals through hunting.
They have committed to be more aggressive about addressing livestock depredation and have identified 26 packs that attacked livestock three or more times last year. Environmentalists and many biologists believe non-lethal means of control would be more effective and both methods are costly.
But environmentalists suggest the current plan is to eliminate 26 packs immediately.
“We couldn’t do that if we wanted to,” said Jim Unsworth, Fish and Game deputy director.
And make no mistake, they don’t want to because they know a wolf killing campaign will only feed the rhetoric that makes wolf management so tough.
Suzanne Stone, Northern Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife, suggests it is possible and perhaps even reasonable to assume the Idaho and even Montana plan a massive wolf killing campaign as soon as they think they can get away with it.
“It allows all but 300 – of an estimated total of 1,343 – of the wolves in Idaho and Montana to be killed,” Stone said. “These numbers do not even account for the new pups being born as we speak, who are easy targets for those who would wish them harm.”
Idaho isn’t going to protect the pups? What kind of fiends are these?
In Idaho we call them poachers
Actually Idaho plans to open a hunting season this fall. When, or if, the allocated number of wolves is killed in an area the season will be closed.
The anti-wolf people are still out there too and they have their own brand of rhetoric. Can our elk population survive until hunting season so we can shoot one?
In a lot of ways the wolf debate is like the nation's ideological debate in the wake of the Obama election. Polarized voices are losing their audiences and people in the center are getting their voices back. But that doesn't stop people from trying.