One July morning on a Yellowstone vacation, I got up at 5 am to hike by the Lower Yellowstone Falls. Just a few minutes after I started out alone in the mist, I felt some eyes on me and turned to see a brown wolf peering at me from across a meadow. We exchanged glances for a second, and then this shy creature bounded away, but I felt my day had been blessed.
Now I read this tragic news for wolves, and I am angry. Why can’t the government just leave these poor animals alone?
Federal officials have formally announced plans to eliminate vital protections for wolves in Wyoming, leaving these iconic animals at the mercy of a shoot-on-sight state policy that covers nearly 90% of the state. With an end to Endangered Species Act protections for the wolves by August 31, the Interior Department is essentially approving a mass slaughter of these magnificent creatures.
These are the last federally protected wolves in a region that has already seen the decimation of much of the wolf population.
The battle between ranchers and environmentalists has been raging for years. Ranchers and hunters started complaining that wolves were taking an unacceptable toll on cattle and wildlife soon after the federal government reintroduced the species to Yellowstone National Park in the mid-1990s.
The Associated Press reports that the federal government’s final delisting plan calls for Wyoming to maintain at least 10 breeding pairs of wolves and at least 100 individual animals outside of Yellowstone and the Wind River Indian Reservation in central Wyoming. Wildlife managers say there are currently about 270 wolves in the state outside Yellowstone.
The state intends to classify wolves in the remaining 90 percent of Wyoming as predators, subject to being killed anytime by anyone.
What does this mean?
The Center for Biological Diversity estimates that close to 200 wolves — highly social animals with intricate family structures — will be shot or trapped to death. Many of them just had pups this spring. In other words, it will be open season on Wyoming’s wolf families.
The Wyoming Game Commission has approved wolf hunts starting October 1 in a flexible zone generally bordering Yellowstone’s eastern and southern flanks. The state is prepared to issue unlimited hunting licenses but will call a halt after hunters kill 52 wolves.
From The Associated Press:
Steve Ferrell, wildlife policy adviser to (Governor) Mead, said the governor is confident it will meet its obligation under the management plan to sustain the required number of wolves.
“Our plan will maintain a sustainable population of wolves in Northwestern Wyoming, and it will contribute Wyoming’s share of the recovery goal of wolves in the Rocky Mountains,” Ferrell said.
However, Andrew Wetzler, director of the Land and Wildlife Program for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Chicago, strongly disagreed.
“It’s essentially turning Wyoming into a free-fire wolf-kill zone outside of national parks and a few national forests,”ť Wetzler said of the state plan. “That’s a huge problem for the population, and it doesn’t take a conservation biologist to figure that out.”
Take Action: If you believe that this plan is cruel and unnecessary, please sign our petition, asking that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reconsider their decision.
Photo Credit: bandanamomaz
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