Wendy Keefover, WildEarth Guardians (Colorado), (303) 573-4898, Ext. 1162
Mike Garrity, Alliance for the Wild Rockies (Montana), (406) 459-5936
Duane Short, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance (Wyoming), (307) 742-7978
Denise Boggs, Conservation Congress (Montana), (406) 538-4220
Priscilla Feral, Friends of Animals (Connecticut), (206) 656-1522
Gary Macfarlane, Friends of the Clearwater (Idaho), (208) 882-9755
Dave Hornoff , National Wolfwatcher Coalition (Rhode Island), (401) 884-2808
Kenneth Cole, Western Watersheds Project (Idaho), (208) 890-3666
Washington, D.C. A coalition of grassroots conservation groups filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for its decision to prematurely rescind Endangered Species Act protection for wolves in Wyoming. This “delisting” decision turns the fate of Wyoming’s wolves over to a hostile State government, which has already drawn up plans for a fall slaughter.
The Wyoming “wolf plan” calls for unregulated wolf killing in over 80 percent of the state. Many of Wyoming’s current population of approximately 330 wolves will die this winter. The State intends to allow a minimum of only 100 wolves to survive outside of Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Reservation, but it has no way to know when it has reached that threshold because it is impossible to census wolf populations unless they wear radio collars.
“Wolves belong to all Americans, but powerful industry lobbyists and their political cronies don’t agree,” said Wendy Keefover of WildEarth Guardians. “The anti-wolf minority wants to kill as many wolves as possible before we can get to the courthouse, and the Fish and Wildlife Service is completely complicit in this terrible arrangement.”
Wyoming’s wolf plan was written in part to appease the cattle and sheep industry, which has loudly protested wolf predation on livestock. But their claims of innumerable livestock losses are without merit. Data show that wolves kill less than one percent of cattle and sheep inventories in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.
Some sportsmen also complain that wolves kill too many elk; yet, the States of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming each host elk populations that exceed management objectives. Wyoming’s elk population is 24 percent over its objective of 85,000 animals. The 2010 count reported 104,000 elk in the state.
“Wyoming’s wolf plan is one of appeasement, answering vociferous, but false claims about wolf predation on elk and livestock,” said Gary Macfarlane of Friends of the Clearwater.
Wolves did not evolve with hunting and trapping pressures and even low levels of killing by humans harm their populations.
“The full effects of hunting can’t be calculated, as it breaks up families of wolves,” said Priscilla Feral of Friends of Animals. “The death of parents always leaves the young to become disoriented and often abandoned to starve.”
“The future plans of millions of tourists who visit Wyoming for wolf watching will be affected, and this threatens ecotourism, one of the fastest growing industries in the region,” said David Hornoff of the National Wolfwatcher Coalition.
As top carnivores, the presence of wolves in ecosystems creates greater biological diversity, affecting species ranging from beetles to songbirds to grizzly bears.
“Wolves are a natural and important component in a fully-functioning ecosystem;” said Michael Garrity of Alliance for Wild Rockies, “without wolves, fragile stream habitats are impaired by overabundant elk and this negatively effects numerous species.”
“Wolf recovery is unfinished business until they are present in healthy numbers in all suitable habitats across the American West,” said Kenneth Cole of Western Watersheds Project.
Duane Short of Biodiversity Conservation Alliance said, “Wyoming’s wolf management ‘plan’ regresses to a past era when Wyoming’s valuable wolves were shot-on-sight as part of a deliberate extermination campaign.”
The conservation and animal advocacy groups agree that Wyoming’s wolf population has not been recovered and that it makes no sense—ecologically or economically—to subject even a fully recovered wolf population to a trigger-happy firing squad.
“The Wyoming plan is not good for wolves, for the environment, or millions of taxpayers that want to restore more wolves to the landscape,” said Denise Boggs of Conservation Congress.
WildEarth Guardians’ General Counsel, Jay Tutchton of Colorado, represents the groups.