Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Fifteen Years After Their Reintroduction, Wolves are Being Slaughtered Again

In doing this blog, I've become pretty numb to bad news. But sometimes, I'll read a story that depresses me so badly that I just want to stop the world so I can get off. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the politically motivated slaughter of wolves has resumed in the very same states where their reintroduction was widely celebrated just a decade-and-a-half ago:
Congress removed wolves in Montana and Idaho from the protection of the Endangered Species Act in April. And this fall, the killing began.

As of Wednesday, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game reported that 154 of its estimated 750 wolves had been "harvested" this year. Legal hunting and trapping — with both snares to strangle and leg traps to capture — will continue through the spring. And if hunting fails to reduce the wolf population sufficiently — to less than 150 wolves — the state says it will use airborne shooters to eliminate more.

In Montana, hunters will be allowed to kill up to 220 wolves this season (or about 40% of the state's roughly 550 wolves). To date, hunters have taken only about 100 wolves, prompting the state to extend the hunting season until the end of January. David Allen, president of the powerful Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, has said he thinks hunters can't do the job, and he is urging the state to follow Idaho's lead and "prepare for more aggressive wolf control methods, perhaps as early as summer 2012."

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead recently concluded an agreement with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to save 100 to 150 wolves in lands near Yellowstone National Park. But in the remaining 80% of the state, wolves can be killed year-round because they are considered vermin. Roughly 60% of Wyoming's 350 wolves will become targeted for elimination.

What is happening to wolves now, and what is planned for them, doesn't really qualify as hunting. It is an outright war.
So what is the reason for the about face from protecting wolves as an endangered species, to not even tolerating a few hundred of them in the gigantic western states? Oh, the usual asshattery:
Part of the reason was the increase, particularly in Idaho and Montana, in paramilitary militia advocates, with their masculine ideal of man as warrior who should fight the hated federal government, by armed force if necessary. They were outraged by what they saw as federal interference in the region spurred by environmentalists, and their ideas found a willing reception among ranchers, who view wolves as a threat to their livestock — even though they ranch on federal land — and hunters, who don't want the wolves reducing the big game population.

The factions have reinforced one another, and today a cultural mythology has emerged that demonizes the federal government, the environmental movement and the wolves themselves. Many false claims have been embraced as truth, including that the Fish and Wildlife Service stole $60 million from federal excise taxes on guns and ammunition to pay for bringing wolves back; that the introduced wolves carry horrible tapeworms that can be easily transmitted to dogs, and ultimately to humans; that the Canadian wolves that were brought in are an entirely different species from the gray wolves that once lived in the Rockies, and that these wolves will kill elk, deer, livestock — even humans — for sport.
Once again, as I've pointed out repeatedly on this blog, the most destructive governmental policies are usually bipartisan initiatives:
Politicians from both parties in Western states have been eager to help with the fortifications. In Idaho, Republican Rep. Mike Simpson and the state's governor, Butch Otter, made removal of wolves from the Endangered Species Act a political priority. In Montana, Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg has made delisting wolves central to his 2012 Senate campaign against Democratic Sen. Jon Tester. In April, Tester in turn persuaded fellow Democrats in the Senate to approve his inserting a rider in a budget bill that delisted wolves.

In early November, Sen. Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, made his own political contribution. Thrilled at the testing of a drone aircraft manufactured in Montana, Baucus declared: "Our troops rely on this type of technology every day, and there is an enormous future potential in border security, agriculture and wildlife and predator management." A manufacturer's representative claimed his company's drone "can tell the difference between a wolf and a coyote." Pilotless drone aircraft used by the CIA and the Air Force to target and kill alleged terrorists now appear to be real options to track and kill "enemy" wolves.
I visited the Canadian Rockies a few summers ago, and one of the highlights of the trip came early one morning when my wife and I actually spotted a wolf near the side of a mountain road. It darted into the woods too quickly for us to get a snapshot of it, but just knowing it was there made us feel good. What a truly disgusting specimen we humans are as a species that we can't even tolerate the existence of a small population of a magnificent animal like the wolf among us.

There are those in the peak oil community who wish collapse would come sooner rather than later in order to halt the ongoing destruction of the natural world. I don't necessarily subscribe to that particular viewpoint, but after reading stories like this one I do understand why they feel the way they do.


  1. I know a many doomers who would kill wolves, coyotes, and just about near anything else if it ate their chickens or goats. They also hate the government. Every animal is considered a nuisance if it uses the same land as humans and is actively using the same resources, and the sad fact is our species is invasive and everywhere that there is little room for fellow predators. We are the TRUE vermin. We are the problem. That ecological imbalance will soon be corrected.

  2. My brother lives in the Pyrenees Mountains on the French Spanish border. They have wolves, bears and eagles in the mountains all of which are a danger to livestock. The Federal Government in Paris pay all farmers in the French Pyrenees an annual levy to compensate them for any losses to livestock. As this is usually more than any damage done to livestock, the farmers are very happy and their is no political pressure for culling predators.

  3. All thanks to lazy fat ass ranchers(and the sociopathic pleasure killers that are modern hunters) that have gotten used to letting their herds just wander around with very little threat, now they are too cheap and lazy to bother tending their herds actively to protect them from predators, so they go out and try to exterminate a keystone species for their pathetic convenience.

  4. I believe that they should go ahead and allow the hunts. However, the rules should be much simpler... no weapons, no traps, no poison. If you can kill the with your bare hands and a rock, more power to you. Otherwise, well, sometimes you get the wolf, sometimes the wolf gets you.

    Seriously, it seems we are a species entirely unable to coexist with other life on our planet, and, surely, this will eventually be our end. As depressing a story and thought as I can recently remember.

  5. @iwe - that's a creative solution, all right. Of course it would be branded derisively as "socialism" if anyone proposed that here.

  6. Wolves have devastated the elk & deer populations in Wyoming, Montana, & Idaho till some areas now only have less than 10% of the herd before the wolf introduction. Instead of the gray wolf, they introduced the arctic gray wolf. The public was told that the gray wolf doesn't migrate. Arctic wolves do. Some elk populations have been so deplete in areas that they will not re-establish unless elk are reintroduced in those areas. State game management agencies should & do have the right to manage all the game species so that there is a balance.

  7. In France this is seen as pragmatic. Tourism is a huge business in the Pyrenees and the big predators add to the attraction of the mountains as a tourist destination. Everybody benefits, but farmers pay a price in lost livestock, so everybody compensates farmers with a levy which is paid from their taxes. If farmers were not compensated some of them would shoot and poison predators to protect their own interests and then everyone would loose.

    I know you are right that in the USA this would be called socialism, the French call it society, a sense that they are all in this together and have to share the burdens.

  8. @Anon - now that could be considered a valid point. A balance is something I could support, if done sensibly. But somehow, these things never seem to be done sensibly.

  9. @Anon - That reduction may be true, but in many places the elk and similar species had become severely OVER-populated because the wolves were missing, with negative effects on OTHER species (including, for example, cold-water fish, b/c of the larger quantities of brook-shading brush they'd eat). The evidence is showing top predators like wolves are crucial for healthy ecosystems.

    @Bill- You quoted, "They were outraged by what they saw as federal interference in the region..." Fine. If they dislike it, how about we end ALL such "interference." Throw them off the millions of FEDERAL acres they ranch & hunt, stop fixing their roads and funding their energy system, start charging massive import duties on stuff coming from them, arm the Indians to take back their land, etc. We could put up a huge wall around them and force them to actually live the way they fantasize, akin to Robert Heinlein's "Coventry."

  10. I think Gus is right here, I keep hearing people saying that some apex predator needs to be controlled because they are devestating prey numbers. Fishermen on the west coast of Ireland are always saying that the grey seals are destroying fish stocks, but I’ve never seen grey seals hunting fish with sonar equipped, diesel powered super trawlers that can take a whole shoal in one go. Predators and prey maintained a balance in North America long before humans entered the picture, if predators devestate prey numbers their numbers collapse and the prey numbers recover, it’s been going on for billions of years. In fact the predator whose numbers need to be really controlled is us and that is probably coming very soon.

  11. The comment uptop about the reduction in elk and deer populations is right out of the republican chorus book... misleading shading to an outright lie... elk and deer habits have indeed changed to where they are now much harder for humans to hunt.. and their populations have declined as a result of wolves - but the areas with huge animal decreases are in the areas where habitat is being destroyed by energy development such as Pinedale and the wolves will never kill as many animals as poaching in those areas and animal/automobile collisions across the state... this is a case of trying to blame the wolves for the impacts of energy development... these guys also have a treatise they trot out every few years that is supposedly written by a grade school kid that plots how many animals each wolf kills... but the math does not add up in that particular case but it is another case of a big lie repeated often enough....