Wolf reintroduction wins twice in federal court
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2005:
ALBUQUERQUE, PORTLAND –February 1, 2005 was a good day for
wolves, at least in court.
In Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S. District Judge Christina
Armijo dismissed an effort to force the removal of Mexican gray
wolves from southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona. The
wolves were reintroduced to the region in 1998. The New Mexico
Cattle Growers Association, Coalition of Arizona/New Mexico Counties
for Stable Economic Growth, and co-plaintiffs held that the
reintroduction–debated for more than a decade–was done with
Ruling for a coalition headed by Defenders of Wildlife, U.S.
District Judge Robert E. Jones of Portland, Oregon meanwhile
reversed an April 2003 ruling by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
that the gray wolves of the continental U.S. form three separate
populations, and are endangered only in the west.
Pushed by George W. Bush administration political appointees,
and supported by many organizations representing hunters and
ranchers, the Fish & Wildlife Service position left intact federal
protection of the “experimental, non-essential” population of about
825 wolves who are descended from several packs reintroduced to the
Yellowstone National Park region in 1995.
However, the 2,500 wolves of Minnesota, northern Wisconsin,
and the Michigan upper peninsula were exposed to more aggressive
predator control under the Fish & Wildlife Service edict. The edict
also virtually precluded reintroducing wolves to northern New England
and upstate New York, a longtime goal of groups including the Maine
Wolf Coalition and Restore the North Woods.
Taking note of Jones’ ruling, the Oregon Fish & Wildlife
Commission on February 11 adopted a long-awaited wolf reintroduction
policy which allows wolves who arrive on their own legs to stay,
sets a population target of at least eight breeding pairs, and asks
the state legislature to fund compensation for ranchers who lose
livestock to wolves.
“Ranchers would get added freedom to kill problem animals as
wolf numbers increase,” wrote Michael Milstein of the Portland
Oregonian. “Wolf hunting could eventually be allowed to keep wolves
from killing too many elk, deer or other prey.”
For now, wolves wandering into Oregon should receive a
warmer official welcome than the three who are known to have visited
since 1999. “One was removed, another killed by a car and the third
illegally shot,” recalled Milstein.
Still hated in Alaska
Friends of Animals, however, was not successful on either
January 27 or February 1 in repeated attempts to persuade Anchorage
Superior Court Judge Sharon Gleason to suspend aerial killing of
wolves at least until May 16, when an FoA lawsuit challenging the
killing is to go to trial. Gleason also refused to grant FoA a
preliminary injunction against the wolf-strafing in 2003.
The Alaska Board of Game has authorized hunters to shoot 610
wolves from aircraft this year, in addition to the estimated 1,500
who will be killed by trappers, from a population of 8,000 to
11,000. The purpose of the aerial killing is to make more moose and
caribou available to human hunters.
Wolf researcher Gordon Haber, a longtime FoA consultant,
pointed out in a February 8 e-mail to news media that “In a January
21, 2005 Associated Press story by Mary Pemberton of Anchorage,
Alaska Department of Fish & Game spokesperson Cathy Harms was quoted
as saying that Fortymile region aerial hunting permittees would not
be allowed to track wolves via the radio collars some of them are
Nonetheless, Haber observed, “aerial wolf hunting permits
were issued to Paul Zaczkowski, Rick Swisher, and Marty Webb, who
for many years have been the Alaska Department of Fish & Game’s
primary contract pilots for state wolf radio collaring and radio
tracking activities in the Fortymile area.”
Earlier, the Alaska Department of Fish & Game agreed to a
plea bargain settlement of charges against Tony Zellers, 41, of
Eagle River, who with pilot David Haeg, 38, of Soldotna was
charged with violating the rules for killing wolves in March 2004.
“Zellers will spend 12 days in jail, pay a $1,000 fine and
pay restitution of $4,500. His state hunting, trapping and guiding
privileges also have been suspended until July, and he was placed on
five years’ probation,” summarized Pemberton.
By comparison, Mark Luttrell, 46, of Seward, on February
15 was fined $3,000 with additional fines of $2,250 suspended,
sentenced to 90 days in jail, all suspended, put on probation for
36 months, and ordered to pay $488 in damages to a trapper whose 30
traps set for wolves, coyotes, wolverines, and weasels Luttrell
found and removed in mid-January. All of the traps were recovered
and returned to the trapper.
Feared in Europe
A roadkilled wolf found on January 12 in Castelli Romani
National Park, Italy, was the first seen near Rome in 70 years.
Amid public excitement, farmers blamed the seven-month-old wolf for
More than 30 years of effort to restore wolves to Europe have
begun to succeed, but anti-wolf hostility lingers.
Wolves have recovered most rapidly in the former Communist
nations, where the human population density is less and sport
hunting has long been restricted by prohibitions on private
possession of firearms.
Bulgaria, claiming national populations of 2,230 wolves, 27,000
golden jackals, and 36,500 foxes, authorized a one-day predator
hunt on February 19. At least 28 wolves were killed during the
regular hunting season, which ended on January 31.
The European Union Environmental Commission meanwhile called
upon Finland to halt a wolf hunt that was expected to kill about 15
of the estimated 150 Finn wolves.
Swedish officials were elated that 10 of the 13 Scandinavian
wolf packs known to have raised cubs in 2004 lived in Sweden, but
were dismayed when neighboring Norway allowed hunters to kill five of
just 20 Norwegian wolves, some of whom may have crossed over from
Sweden. Swedish environment minister Lena Sommerstad protested to
her Norwegian counterpart, Knut Arild Hareide, who called killing
“only” five wolves a compromise.
“The wolf is vermin and should be taken out,” said Center
Party program committee chair Lars Peder Brekk. But a poll
commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund found that 54% of Norwegians
opposed killing the wolves.
Norway also authorized hunters to kill up to 51 of the estimated 250
lynx left in the nation, a third fewer than the official national