Conservationists are asking an appeals court to stop the wolf hunts in Idaho that could kill an unprecedented number of wolves. It has been reported that Idaho’s wolf hunt would have no upper limit on the number of wolves that can be shot and killed, and would be open from August 30-March 31. It also would allow trapping wolves using devices that can kill them by snaring them around the neck and cutting of their air supply. If the whole Idaho population is reduced from about 1,000 to 150, there would be over an eighty percent drop due to the hunting and trapping there. An attorney for a conservation group said, “Idaho could easily shoot 90 percent of the wolves that are currently there before the 9th Circuit could decide the case.” (Source: MTexpress.com)
In 2009, the Idaho wolf hunt planned for killing just 220. So how could an annual wolf hunt quota go from 200 to 800 or more in just two years? One might assume their overall population increased, but it actually declined in 2010. So there doesn’t appear to be a valid answer for planning to kill so many extra wolves compared to the hunt in 2009. It could be simply antipathy for wolves, as typified by Idaho’s governor Butch Otter, ‘We didn’t want them here at all’. (Source: MTexpress.com) Notice the governor was quoted as saying there were 1,700 wolves, but that was likely 700 too many for Idaho.
Presumably some of the Idaho wolf population are pups that will either be killed outright or die of starvation when their mothers are killed in the hunts. If you don’t believe it is possible for pups to die from the hunt, consider the fact mountain lion kittens have already died in a South Dakota hunt. Also research has shown the number of wolves killed in hunts is probably too high and has a more negative effect on the whole population than has been assumed.
One of the main reasons for some people wanting wolf hunts is their belief that all wolves kill livestock. It is typically just a small percentage of the whole wolf population that kills them, however. In other words, hunting and killing all the wolves in a population isn’t sensible, because many of the wolves that are eliminated never injured or killed any livestock. “Wolves in wilderness areas don’t kill livestock, it’s the wolves on the edge in agricultural areas. Do hunters want to hunt in farmland? I’m not sure,” said Adrian Treves, a University of Wisconson-Madison professor. (Source: UW-Madison) Also, many farmers are compensated for their livestock losses due to wolf attacks, so some farmers aren’t losing as much as they claim.
The Idaho and Montana wolf hunts are being allowed not because of sound science. It was just politics that allowed a rider to be attached to a budget bill, and the rider removed endangered species protections for the wolves, “The rule had been declared unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in August 2010, but the rider overturned that decision in May 2011 when President Barack Obama signed the budget bill.” (Source: MTexpress.com)
Predators play an important role in managing the populations of other animals in their ecosystems. When predators are reduced too much, an ecosystem can become unbalanced and unhealthy. If the free value predators provide to ecosystems isn’t a convincing enough reason to respect their lives, consider the fact wolves generate over thirty million dollars a year for Yellowstone National Park.
In Montana a quota of 220 wolf kills has been set, with more than 2,000 wolf hunting licenses sold already.
Image Credit: dobak