The headline of the press release practically shrieked across my screen: “Conservation Groups Challenge Federal Wolf-Killing Rule.”
The “conservation groups,” it turns out, are The Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity and others.
A more rabid group of anti-hunters would be hard to find.
Their press release was a reaction to a recent decision made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to revise rules that a few states have to follow when removing wolves that threaten livestock, deer and elk herds, and dogs.
The announcement is not about an open hunting season. Yet the press release included quotes like these:
“This rule is nothing less than a declaration of war on wolves in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana,” said John Grandy, Ph.D., senior vice president of HSUS. “After decades of progress, the Service is abandoning all that we have achieved for wolf conservation and returning to the short-sighted persecution and extermination policies of the past.”
“This is a giant step backward. There is absolutely no reason to begin a wholesale slaughter of the region’s wolves,” said Suzanne Stone, northern Rockies wolf conservation specialist for Defenders of Wildlife. “Yet that is exactly what the federal government is willing to allow the states to do: wipe out hundreds of wolves our nation has worked so hard to recover.”
“Declaration of war?” “Extermination?” “Wholesale slaughter?”
“The shrieking you hear is those groups making a mountain out of a molehill,” said Ed Bangs, USFWS Wolf Recovery Coordinator.
Let’s look at what the revised rules are really about: The wolves in these states have made a strong recovery—strong enough that they are due to come off the Endangered Species list at the end of February.
But animal protection groups are expected to oppose delisting the wolves, which will likely result in a lengthy court battle.
In the meantime, and because of the increases in the wolf population, USFWS is simply giving states more flexibility to control wolves in light of their effect on deer, elk and moose populations, and giving private citizens the right to kill predators in the act of attacking their livestock.
Prior to the rule revisions, states had to prove that wolves were the major factor in decreasing populations of ungulates. Now they have only have to prove that wolves are one of the factors—but states will still have to develop and file a wolf management plan with USFWS before any removal can begin. As for private citizens, they would be allowed to take a wolf in the act of killing their livestock or dogs, on public or private land. Previously, they could only defend their stock or dogs on private property. Even under the new rule, the livestock owner must provide evidence that the wolf attack occurred with the last 24 hours.
These rules do not apply to states or tribes without approved wolf management plans, or in national parks. Moreover, USFWS would not authorize removal if it caused the state’s population of wolves to drop below 20 breeding pairs and 200 total wolves. (At least 1,240 wolves now live in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.)
While the howls of hysteria from the antis are hardly unexpected, it is vital for them to be refuted with facts. Anti-hunting literature and messages are showing up more and more in our school system, for one thing. And few wild animals excite kids more than a wolf. It would be a tragedy for that excitement to be overwhelmed with such wild distortion of facts.