The gray wolves of the Northern Rocky Mountains were taken off the Endangered Species list on March 28, because their numbers across Idaho, Wyoming and Montana had reached around 1500. In the month since the ban on shooting wolves was lifted, 35 wolves have been shot. (And we’re not talking about ranchers protecting livestock here. Nearly all of the wolf deaths were caused by plain old hunting.)
Take for example the three-legged male Yellowstone wolf known as 253M and nicknamed “Liimpy”, a creature with a dark black coat and an off-kilter gait who used to delight tourists and locals with frequent glimpses. He was arguably the best known wild wolf in north America (Tales of his meanderings often turned up on local papers.)…and he was killed the first day the ban was lifted.
In response to the rush to shoot wolves, a consortium of 12 environmental groups filed a lawsuit on Monday in the hope of halting the killing.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Missoula, Montana, asks for reinstated protection for gray wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
As regular readers know, I have personal emotions tied up in the issue. I’ve tracked wolves in the wild with biologists, have a beautiful wolf hybrid dog named Loup-Loup, and give dog cookies to the neighbors’ two gorgeous nearly full blooded wolves when they come to my back door on mornings when I’m at home working. Yet, the fact that I like wolves doesn’t impair reason.
I’ve outlined the issue in more detail here. But this morning’s LA Times has a good editorial on how the wolf policy is going off the rails and what ought to be done to fix it. Here’s an excerpt.
The gray wolf of the northern Rockies was ready for delisting. [NOTE: I don't think so but honorable people could honorably disagree on this issue.] The population exceeded all goals for the program, and species should not be kept on a lifeline forever, if at all possible. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was remiss in this case, primarily because it failed to ensure that state regulations for the wolves would protect them. Obviously, with more than 2% of the population killed within a month, existing state management plans are inadequate.
Some residents of the three states — ranchers, hunters and people who just don’t like wolves — have been waiting for this chance. Protecting livestock is one thing, but hunters have been complaining that the wolves keep down the population of elk, which they would like to hunt themselves. Yet part of the reasoning for reintroducing the wolf was to restore the natural balance in which animal predators kept the populations of elk and deer in check.
The federal government will not intervene again on the wolves’ behalf until their numbers fall as low as 300. Taxpayers will then bear the burden of re-listing the wolves. That’s partly why environmentalists have gone to court over the delisting.
The Fish and Wildlife Service should re-list the wolves until it receives more reasonable management plans from the states involved, and should demand that the population fall no lower than 1,000. The wolves weren’t reintroduced to provide target practice for hunters.