Bears and Alligators Environment

The Fight Over Delisting the Wolf


Last week the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service announced
that it was taking the gray wolf off the endangered species list. Under the delisting rule, states will assume legal management authority of wolves in the northern Rockies on March 28, 2008.

In more practical terms this means: let the killing begin. Montana, Idaho and Wyoming will begin hunting wolves in the fall—or, in some cases, perhaps earlier.

In response, eleven conservation groups announced yesterday, the Sierra Club and the Humane Society among them, that they are taking legal action to protect wolves in the northern Rockies. Within hours of the publication of the delisting rule, the groups notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that it violated the Endangered Species Act by removing the northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf population from the list. The groups intend to challenge the Service’s decision in federal court in the hope of overturning the Service’s delisting rule before the hunting ban is lifted and hundreds of wolves are killed.

“Wyoming’s plan classifies wolves as predators in most of the state, where they can be shot on sight without even a hunting license, ” says Derek Goldman, of the Endangered Species Coalition. “Idaho plans on eliminating 85 percent of the wolves in the state through hunting or state eradication programs.”

The approximately 1500 wolves that presently exist in the northern Rockies have had a long and difficult road back from eradication, one that many wolf watchers—myself included—feel that it’s premature and irresponsible to disrupt.

Although the gray wolf was placed
on the federal Endangered Species list in 1974, there had been no wolves to protect in the western US since 1925. It wasn’t until 1986 that a biologist named Diane Boyd was able to document the first den of gray wolves found in the western United States since they were systematically eliminated during the forty-year period stretching from the mid-1880’s until the mid-1920’s. Boyd found the mom and seven pups in the upper reaches of Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana. As she attempted to track the elusive group, they seemed to appear and disappear “as if by sorcery,” so Boyd named them the Magic Pack.

Boyd didn’t find the Magic Pack by accident. She’d been looking for wolves ever since a lone female was trapped and radio collared in the park in 1979. Biologists, most specifically Boyd, tracked the female until her radio collar ran out of juice. Boyd then tried—unsuccessfully—to trap the wolf in order to replace the batteries. From time to time in the next few years, she and others would catch site of her. Eventually Boyd noted that the female had attracted suitor, a male wolf that had likely migrated from Canada. Romance occurred and cubs followed. But when the male was accidentally killed in a bear snare, the mom was left to raise her litter alone. Still, the mother and the seven babies constituted an official pack.

The next pack showed up a year later, in 1987, along the North Fork of the Flathead River, along some of Glacier Park’s back roads. An an offshoot of the Magic Pack, Boyd named the new group the Camas Pack.

There were more split offs,
and more packs, including the first of the bifurcating groups to migrate out of the park, the Ninemile pack, made famous by naturalist writer Rick Barr.

In 1995, humans helped the wolf reintroduction process along by capturing four packs of wolves in Canada and releasing them in Yellowstone National Park, then did the same with another 17 wolves in northern Idaho.

Now delisting proponents say the wolves have come far enough, that 1500 is too many. Wolf advocates say the population is still far too fragile to delist.

Here’s a quote from the AP article on the subject:

“A lot of the killing may not be taking place just from hunters,”
said Michael Robinson with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups that plans to sue. “It’s going to be very systematic killing, with aerial killing and the trapping of wolves to put radio collars on them and then, after they return to their pack, killing the entire pack.”

I’ve been a wolf fan for years, so I’m admittedly not neutral on the subject. I’ve reported on wolves in Glacier Park, tracked radio collared wolves by small open-cockpit plane with a biologist, and in 1995, dragged my then ten-year-old son Will on a late-night wolf-howling expedition in search of the Camas Pack, hiking along the Camas Creek road where the potholes are the size of Humvees, and mosquitoes the size of B-52s. We’d been taught how to howl so the wolves would howl back at us. We were disappointed when whatever wolves were roaming ihe surrounding darkness, completely ignored our sad yowling. Finally, bug-bit and bored we gave up and broke out the Dr. Pepper and the Moosedrool huckleberry beer that I had stashed in a cooler in the trunk of my car. It was only then the Camas wolves began the beautiful and unearthly singing that sounds like nothing else in the world.

And, as regular readers know, there is a quarter-blood wolf-dog (the fabulous Loup-Loup) residing at my house as I type.

Killing creatures like her
when there are still so few left…. doesn’t work for me.

UPDATE; In the interest of fairness, commenter Woody rightly suggested that I should have posted an opposing view. (Sometimes being fair is so vexing. But he’s right.) So here’s a link to a very reasoned essay on the subject by Whitney Tilt, former director of conservation for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Links to the AP and the LA Times stories on the subject also outline the Feds position. All the main conservation groups just happen to very vehemently disagree with it.


  • Celeste, no one is killing your dog or creatures like her. Woves in the wild aren’t exactly domesticated animals.

    You didn’t even cover the rationale for cutting back the wolves. I haven’t heard the reasons but can imagine, and it’s not because we’re trying to feed some Vietnamese. Ask people who raise cattle and sheep or people worried about their kids if it matters to them.

    There are coyotes in our area and they have been found a few miles from downtown Atlanta–killing pets and scaring moms. I saw one cross my street and it bothered me. But, instead of shooting them, I propose that we capture them and send them to animal haven Topanga Canyon.

    Give both sides so that others can decide–like FOX.

    (Here’s another example of liberals gone mad: San Francisco City Hall – Wheelchair ramp will cost $100,000 a foot .)

  • You can ship ’em to us. We’ve got lots of great coyotes that threaten to eat our cats and small dogs (and occasionally do), but nobody’s scared of ’em, except said small pets. (I explain patiently to Merlin the cat that this is why he can’t go out after dark.)

    Okay, In the interest of fairness, I’ll post a reasoned contra view. (But why be fair, really. Sometimes it’s so….tiresome.)

  • Woody, since part of the premise of the post was that it was coming from a “wolf fan” who’s “admittedly not neutral” I think that “in the interest of fairness” you should at least muster your own damned counterargument – assuming you care about the issue and aren’t just seeking attention or happen to be bored by poring over somebody elses balances and receipts. Whining that “I haven’t heard the reasons but I can imagine” as the foundation of your usual knee-jerk “contra” first response to Celeste’s posts is lame even for you. It’s also incredibly ironic – and shameless – for someone who routinely makes the kinds of wildly skewed arguments you do to appeal that “both sides be presented so people can make up their own minds.”

  • reg must be talking to the wolves.

    That reminds me of an old Lewis Grizzard joke where a Georgia fan saw the bulldog mascot “licking himself” down on the field and said, “I wish that I could do that,” to which Grizzard replied, “He’ll bite youuuuuuu.”

    reg, I would only consider biting you if you tried to lick me. Resist the urge.

    Remember this from last year…LINK: Bald Eagle Soars Off Endangered Species List

    This was a symbol of our nation. But, it was President Clinton (I guess Bill) who recommended that this action be taken. That didn’t mean that the birds wouldn’t be monitored and protected from becoming endangered again. It meant that the goals of growth were met. But, with liberals, once something they want becomes law, it is supposed to be except from future elimination, just like firemen on trains. No wonder so much money is wasted.

  • I haven’t heard the reasons but can imagine, and it’s not because we’re trying to feed some Vietnamese.

    Clueless and bigoted in the same breath. That must be a new record.

  • Just for the record, Woody, if anyone ever makes the presumption that because you’re from the South that you eat possum pie, I will defend you against said bigoted presumption, unless, of course, you do acknowledge that you eat possum pie.

  • (Oh, nuts, Celests’s left-wing filter ate a comment of mine.)

    Celeste, if you want a real video of the threats of wolves, get one by Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs. In the meantime, there’s this version of “Little Red Riding Hood.”

    Randy, there has to be some explanation as to why all the stray dogs disappeared from San Francisco when the Vietnamese moved there after the conflict. It wasn’t because they made the dogs pets. I heard that there’s the Road Kill Cafe outside of Huntsville, where they have a special possum stew.

    I still favor killing wolves.

  • Still bigoted still clueless: the largest concentration of Vietnamese immigrants is in Orange County, CA.

    The self-awareness express rolls on and Woody refuses to get on board.

  • Celeste,

    Absolutely nothing tears at my heart with more savagery than this post. Wolves are nothing if not wonderful and mysterious, perfectly adapted, and the DNA bank of the best instincts of the herding dogs, on which our agri-business has depended for its success. But, there is also nothing more mind blowing and fury inducing, than livestock savaged by a wolf pack. Nature red in tooth and claw. I can see both sides of the argument, and it positively rips me in half.

  • Listener, you make a very good point. Ranchers have a right to be furious if wolves take their livestock. But, in Montana and Wyoming if a ranch animal is killed by a wolf, they are paid generously for a wolf “predation.” And nearly all cases the offending wolf is shot. But ranchers and F & G folks are getting smarter so “wolf management” techniques are being successfully employed. Thus in Wyoming, wolf predations are down by 55 percent in 2007 over 2006.

    One more thing, wolf predations only are a fraction of the total wildlife predations on livestock in the Rocky Mountain region. Most are coyote predations, followed by killing by mountain lions. Yet, it’s wolves that everybody’s crazy about. I’ve learned in Montana there are two subjects its better not to bring up around folks you don’t know well: wolves…and timber.

    In Idaho, which also pays for predations, their idiot Governor, Butch Otter vowed lustily on Jan. 11 of this year at an event called “Idaho Sportsman’s Day” that after delisting his administration kill 80 percent of the state’s wolf population (and,yes, Idaho’s approved post delisting “state plan” would allow such a slaughter) and that he would shoot the first one himself. This would mean killing 550 of the 650 wolves thought to be living in Idaho.

    Among the biggest pressure groups pushing for delisting are certain hunters’ organizations who think that the wolves are taking the elk that are, by rights, theirs.

  • The real thing that sickens me is that wolves were taken off the endangered species list in the first place. They are beautiful, shy creatures who no human fully understands and probably never will. Contray to popular myths and folklore, wolf attacks on humans are little to none. I mean, if they take them off the endangered species list, why put them up for open season? Seriously- it just gives the E.S.L no point whatsoever if the animals that are taken off of it are driven to near extinction the moment their name is removed. Its sick. To anyone who has killed a wolf simply for sport- shame on you. You have just helped destroy one of the most beautiful creatures on earth. What are they going to do with a dead wolf anyways? You can’t wear its fur anywhere, and putting its lifeless body as a DECORATION isn’t a trophy- its just attracting the fact that you murdered a defenceless creature. Defenceless? But they have claws and teeth. Well- claws and teeth dont really matter when they are up against a bullet or arrow, do they? Not at all. And to all of you people who think that hunting wolves for ‘sport’ is fun, or entertaining, go ahead and reply to this. In fact, I dare you to reply and show the world just how cruel you are. Go ahead. Do it.

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