Judge orders wolves to go

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, Jan/Feb 1998:

PARK––Defenders of Wildlife and the
National Wildlife Federation on December 31
asked the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
to reverse a December 12 ruling by U.S.
District Judge William Downes of Wyoming
that either wolves introduced into
Yellowstone National Park and northern
Idaho during the past two years should be
removed, or all wolves in the greater
Yellowstone ecosystem should be fully protected
under the Endangered Species Act.
As part of a compromise worked
out in 1994 to get around political opposition
to the reintroduction of wolves to the
Yellowstone environs, the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service termed the reintroduced
wolves and their offspring an “experimental,
nonessential” population, not completely
covered as an endangered species. This
enables wildlife officials and ranchers to kill
wolves who are caught allegedly preying on

Sixty-six wolves were trapped in
Alberta and British Columbia and relocated to
the Yellowstone region in 1995 and 1996.
There are currently about 165 reintroduced
wolves and offspring: 90-odd in and around
Yellowstone National Park, most of the rest
in Idaho.
Wolves who emigrated south from
Canada to begin recolonizing the northern
Rocky Mountains without human help
remained covered by the ESA––until such
time as wolves become so abundant in the
mainland U.S. that they can be removed from
ESA protection entirely. Currently, among
U.S. wolf populations, only those in Alaska
do not have either endangered or threatened
species status.
Downes ruled on a point of the
ESA, Section 10j, cited in suits brought for
different reasons by the American Farm
Bureau Federation and the Earth Justice Legal
Defense Fund, formerly known as the Sierra
Club Legal Defense Fund, which represented
a coalition also including the Predator Project
and the National Audubon Society. The Farm
Bureau wanted to evict the wolves on behalf
of complaining ranchers; the conservation
groups wanted to increase their protection.
Section 10j enables USFWS to
reintroduce endangered species into their former
habitat if there is no potential for the
species to otherwise repopulate the area.
However, during the 22 years that the wolf
reintroduction was debated, USFWS collect

ed hundreds of reports of wolf sightings in the
Yellowstone area. As the reintroduction began,
USFWS memos discussed reports of at least five pairs
of wolves already in northern Idaho, others in northwestern
Montana, and one wolf who was shot in 1994
in Wyoming, just south of Yellowstone.
Thus the Farm Bureau contended that the
wolf reintroduction was illegal, while Earth Justice and
allies held that USFWS improperly exempted the reintroduced
wolves from full ESA protection. Judge
Downes consolidated the separate suits into one in
1995, a year after they were filed.
Defenders and NWF acknowledged that their
appeal was filed not only to defend the wolf reintroduction,
but also to uphold their plan for grizzly bear reintroduction
to the Bitterroot mountains, northwest of
Yellowstone. Negotiated with a timber industry front
group, the Resource Organization on Timber supply
and Intermountain Forest Industry Association, the
Defenders/NWF grizzly deal would likewise class reintroduced
animals and their offspring as “experimental,
nonessential.” The USFWS in mid-1997 chose the deal
as the agency’s preferred choice among several alternatives
for returning grizzlies to the Bitterroots.
Defenders would compensate owners of livestock
killed by reintroduced grizzlies just as it compensates
ranchers for livestock losses to wolves in both the
northern Rockies and Minnesota. Since the reintroduction
began, Defenders has paid nine ranchers a total of
$12,700 for losses of 86 sheep and five calves.
Removing the reintroduced wolves at this
point by any means short of extermination might prove
impossible––and that probably couldn’t be done without
killing the naturally occurring wolves. Most of the
surviving reintroduced wolves among the original 66
have lost their radio collars by now, or the batteries
have died, and only some of their offspring have ever
been radio-collared.
Yellowstone National Park superintendent
Michael Finley on January 2 announced the start of a
drive to capture and radio-collar or re-radio-collar 40 to
45 wolves from among the eight different packs in the
park, just in case they do have to be removed. The
collared wolves would lead biologists to the rest.
A pack of three wolves found in the Crazy
Mountains during December 1997, after years of
rumors of their presence, might have either come naturally
or be a reintroduced pack, Montana state biologist
Tom Lemke told media on December 31.
Either recapturing and removing or just
killing the wolves wuld be costly. The USFWS wolf
recovery budget is already so depleted from recapturing
and relocating wolves who kill livestock, USFWS
predator removal specialist Carter Neimeyer told the
Casper Star-Tribune in December, that there is no
funding available to hire a wolf specialist to work in
Wyoming as wolves spread south from Yellowstone.
The eight-member so-called Soda Butte Pack, released
in July 1996, entered the Buffalo Valley circa
December 1, near Jackson Hole, where no wolves had
been seen in 60 years––and then vanished. Weeks
later, USFWS still couldn’t find them.
Neimeyer also acknowledged “a possibility
that this summer we’ll change to ‘one strike and you’re
out,’” meaning wolves who menace livestock would
be immediately killed, “but it’s not going to happen
easily,” he added, because such a move would
inevitably bring more lawsuits.
On November 23. prior to Downes’ ruling,
USFWS assistant regional director Paul Gertler told a
gathering of ranchers organized by wolf and grizzly
restoration foe Senator Conrad Burns (R-Montana) that
the agency might consider giving them more leeway to
kill wolves whose presence they consider threatening.
Wolf killings have already escalated. Two
were killed by USFWS for attacking livestock in late
October, one in Wyoming and the other in south-central
Montana, and two more were killed for attacking
livestock in mid-December near Augusta, Montana,
while a poacher wounded a wolf in the North Absaroka
Wilderness who finally died 11 days later, on
December 17. USFWS biologist Douglas Smith had
tried to save the wolf by air-dropping meat to him.
Alberta Environmental Protection spokesperson
Michael Evans told David Bray of the E d m o n t o n
S u n on December 15 that Alberta doesn’t want to get
any wolves back. “They got their green cards,” Evans
said. “They are no longer our jurisdiction.”
Complicating matters further, USFWS wolf
reintroduction chief Ed Bangs said, the day of
Downes’ ruling, are the presence in the region of formerly
privately owned wolves and wolf hybrids,
apparently released in unauthorized restoration
attempts and/or by people whose pets simply became
too much for them to handle. Bangs proposed rule
changes to enable USFWS to more easily kill ex-captive
wolves and/or wolf hybrids. Public comments on
the changes were to be considered until January 12.
As national umbrella for 48 state hunting
clubs, the National Wildlife Federation has favored the
wolf reintroduction, to expedite removal of wolves
from ESA protection and thereby create opportunities
to legally hunt them––but many individual hunters
have joined the anti-wolf faction, especially houndsmen
after a wolf pack killed three trained hounds on
November 28, three miles from Salmon, Idaho, and
single wolf killed a hound on December 30, 40 miles
from Salmon. The “experimental, nonessential” designation
of reintroduced wolves does not allow hunters to
shoot them to protect dogs.
The hound killings moved Idaho governor
Phil Batt to coax an extra $100,000 out of USFWS to
help the Nez Perce Tribe continue wolf predation control,
as major subcontractors to the wolf restoration.
Minnesota wolves
The Minnesota Department of Natural
Resources announced on December 12, 1997 that it
intends to hold a statewide series of consultation meetings
this year to discuss strategy for removing the estimated
2,300 Minnesota wolves from the federal threatened
species list. Wolf predation on livestock in
Minnesota is reportedly sharply up, as wolves have
spread beyond the areas that state officials had believed
would contain them. At least 232 wolves were killed in
1997 by USDA Wildlife Services, due to 89 instances
of alleged predation, up from 154 killed in 1996, after
99 attacks on livestock that killed 1,656 domestic animals.
The previous high number of wolves killed for
predation in Minnesota was 174, in 1994.
As in Idaho, a wolf attack on a domestic dog
increased anti-wolf sentiment––but the dog was a 10-
year-old springer spaniel mix named Cringer, weighing
just 55 pounds, who was actually attacked on a
cranberry farm in southeastern Jackson County,
Wisconsin, and apparently won the December 18 fight,
as he survived severe injuries while the two wolves
retreated. Whether the wolves were wild or had been
dumped by someone was unknown. About 150 wild
wolves are believed to be in Wisconsin.
Alaska wolves
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game on
November 18 cancelled three scheduled wolf-killing
programs, intended to increase the Fortymile caribou
herd, and announced it would instead sterilize some
wolves while relocating others from the Tok area. The
alpha (breeding) males and females from 15 packs are
to be neutered during the next three years, while about
60 wolves will be moved, half of them to the Kenai
Peninsula. The project will cost an estimated $600,000
in revenues from federal taxes on hunting equipment
and hunting license sales.
The Alaska DFG announcement came in
acceptance of National Academy of Sciences recommendations
after a $300,000 review of Alaskan wolf
control, 1948-1995. The 207-page final report found
that killing wolves is ineffective in boosting caribou
and moose populations over time, and succeeded in
elevating populations even briefly in only three of 11
cases where at least 40% of the wolves in a particular
habitat were killed.
Alaska governor Tony Knowles ordered the
NAS study after cancelling a state wolf-trapping project
in December 1994, immediately on taking office.

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