Photo via Wildman Lodge
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar pointed to the miraculous recovery of the wolf population in the Midwest when deciding to uphold the Bush administration's decision to take wolves off the endangered species list . Where once there was merely a roving band of wolves, all but considered wiped out, now there are upwards of 1,600 in the Rockies. Salazar called it one of the greatest conservation feats in history—and with that nod, he grandly removed federal protection for the wolves. Then Idaho's governor promptly made official plans to kill hundreds of them. That's the conservation spirit! Look, there are plenty of 'em now—let's kill a couple hundred. And the governor's not holding back his excitement, either. According to a report from Mother Jones:
Republican governor Butch Otter has endorsed a proposal to halve the state's wolf population of 88 packs and more than 1,000 individuals (counting new pups born this spring). Otter has said he plans to apply for a wolf-hunting permit so he can be the first Idahoan to fell a wolf.
A true leader of men—boldly leading the charge to kill some of the last few hundred creatures of their kind in the state. But thanks to the Obama administration's staying the course set by Bush, this move may be entirely legal—the only state where wolves are still considered endangered is Wyoming. And that's largely because the official state position on Wolves is that they're hell bent on killing all of them:
The management plan Wyoming submitted to the Fish and Wildlife Service in 2007 classified gray wolves as vermin to be shot on sight, at any time, over roughly 85 percent of the Cowboy State.
Needless to say, these attitudes do not bode well for the still-fragile wolf population in the Northern Rockies. Yes, the original targets were to bring their numbers up to 100+ wolves in each of the three states, and those targets have been exceeded. There are now estimated to be 500 in Montana, 850 in Idaho, and 300 in Wyoming. Conservation groups say that's not nearly enough, and that there should be as many as 5,000 in the wild before delisting the wolves is safe. But what's the worst that could happen?
A year ago, when wolves were briefly delisted until environmentalists overturned that decision in court, more than 100 were shot regionwide in a matter of weeks. Some were run down and trampled by snowmobilers in Wyoming who won praise as local folk heroes.
Hooo-boy! Now let me note an aside here, because this is the kind of post that always gets me called a left wing urban elitist or such in the comments: I recognize why folks hate wolves—they kill livestock, present a perceived threat to humans (which is in actuality virtually nonexistent), and are closely associated with werewolves. I can't say I'd be keen on wolves hanging out in my backyard, either—but we've got to respect a species whose population still hangs in the balance. Beginning mass hunts at this delicate stage could undo years of conservation progress.
The US Fish and Wildlife wolf biologist Mike Jimenez puts it nicely:
"It's easy to want wolves when they don't live in your backyard. And it's also easy for some in the livestock community to deny the biological significance of wolves and what their survival means to millions of Americans. This respect for both perspectives is what is missing from the current discussion."
Well said—sure sounds better than breaking out the snowmobiles.
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More on Wolves Endangered Species
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Gray Wolves Are Back on the Endangered List... For Now