Wolves, grizzlies lose protection– and Alaska resumes wolf bounty
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2007:
WASHINGTON D.C.–Wolves and grizzly bears, the iconic
predators of the North American frontier, lost their Endangered
Species Act protection within the continental U.S. within days of
each other in March 2007, opening the possibility that both may soon
be legally hunted.
Demonstrating how wolves and grizzlies became endangered in
the first place–and what has historically always happened when rural
states are allowed jurisdiction over large predators–Alaska Governor
Sarah Palin’s office on March 20 introduced a $150 bounty on wolves.
The bounty is open only to the 180 pilots and aerial gunners who are
registered volunteer participants in the state’s predator control
Killing 607 wolves in the four preceding winters, the
program had a 2007 target of 382 to 684 wolves. Only 98 had been
killed with five weeks to go before the aerial shooting season was to
end on April 30.
The predator control program was promoted by former Governor
Frank Murkowski and his appointees to the Alaska Board of Game, to
make more moose and caribou available to human hunters.
Alaska paid a bounty on wolves from gaining statehood in 1959
until 1972, then pursued a variety of other methods of promoting
The Alaska Board of Game in March 2007 also opened a spring
grizzly bear hunting season in Chugach State Park, at risk of
orphaning cubs–and authorized trapping wolverines in Chugach.
Wolverines are among the rarest of North American predators,
even in Alaska.
“But a majority of board members agreed with member Bob Bell,
who argued that wolverines are so secretive and scarce, it’s nearly
impossible to spot one as part of a wildlife-viewing experience,
whereas they do have value for trappers,” wrote George Bryson of the
Anchorage Daily News.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on February 8, 2007 began
the delisting process for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains by
opening a 60-day comment period on the formal delisting proposal, a
month before delisting was completed for wolves in the upper Midwest.
On March 12, 2007, the Fish & Wildlife Service returned
management authority over wolves in Michigan, Minnesota, and
Wisconsin to their state wildlife agencies.
The Midwest delisting also covers wolves in the Dakotas and
Iowa, although none are known to be established in those states.
“Bear hunters who use dogs and some livestock farmers began
an advertising campaign to convince Wisconsin officials to
immediately cull wolf numbers in the state from 500 to 350, the
quota listed in Wisconsin’s state wolf plan,” noted John Myers of
the Duluth News Tribune. “Wisconsin officials say they have no plans
to do so.”
Minnesota introduced a plan to pay trappers $150 per wolf killed.
“Attitudes of the public have changed. But the attitudes of
the state management agencies haven’t,” Humane Society of the U.S.
predator specialist Karlyn Atkinson Berg told Myers. “They are
pretty much the same. The states have arbitrary quotas on how many
wolves we can have and where they should be allowed. They aren’t
based on any scientific, biological, or even social carrying
capacity–just on keeping wolves as few as possible,” without
allowing them to again become federally protected.
The northern Rockies wolf delisting proposal covers Idaho,
Montana, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon, and Utah. Wolves would
continue to be fully protected within Yellowstone and Grand Teton
“In Montana and Idaho, management would be passed to state
agencies. Each is already talking about setting up hunts,” reported
Mike Stark of the Billings Gazette.
Wyoming has not yet produced a wolf management plan that
meets U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service approval.
“If Wyoming and the Fish & Wild-life Service come to an
agreement,” wrote Stark, “wolves in the entire state would be
delisted. Those in the northwest corner could be classified as
trophy game and possibly hunted. Any wolves found in the rest of the
state would be considered predators and could be killed without
“If Wyoming and FWS can’t come to an agreement,” Stark said,
“wolves would be delisted in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming with the
notable exception of the northwest corner, where they would remain
under federal protection. Wolves in the rest of Wyoming would then
come under state law classifying them as predators.”
Extirpated from the continental U.S. by predator control
killing, absent from the Yellowstone National Park region for 70
years, wolves were reintroduced in 1995.
Twelve years later, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service wolf
recovery coordinator Ed Bangs believes there are 673 wolves in Idaho,
316 in Montana, and 311 in Wyoming.
Wyoming since 2004 has had a 31% wolf increase, and in 2006
had a record 123 cattle killed by wolves, resulting in 44 wolves
As the habitat fills, wolves are increasingly often killing
each other. “Wolves killing other wolves accounted for 44% of adult
mortality for radio-collared animals in Yellowstone last year,”
reported Cory Hatch of the Jackson News & Guide.
Deputy Interior Secretary Lynn Scarlett on March 22, 2007
announced that grizzly bears would lose Endangered Species Act
protection in the continental U.S., as there are now more than 500
grizzlies in Yellowstone National Park and adjacent states.
“Stripping the bears of protection could eventually clear the
way for hunting. A measure that would allow hunting grizzlies has
passed the Montana Senate,” noted Alan Suderman of Associated Press.
“Opponents of the delisting, including more than 250 scientists and
researchers who sent the government a letter of protest, question
whether the bear population is large enough to be genetically diverse
and withstand outside pressures such as global warming and food
Delisting grizzlies “will put the last remnants of wild
places grizzlies need to fully recover and raise their young at risk
from irresponsible oil drilling, unsustainable logging, and
sprawling development–all of which helped drive the grizzly to the
brink of extinction in the first place,” said Sierra Club executive
director Carl Pope.
Natural Resources Defense Council bear program director
Louisa Willcox indicated that the NRDC would fight the delisting
either through litigation or seeking Congressional intervention.
While wolves and grizzly bears outside of Yellowstone
National Park are now at greater risk of being killed, House Natural
Resources Committee chair Nick Rahall on March 20 warned Montana
Governor Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat, and Montana Representative
Denny Rehberg, a Republican, that the times are changing.
Schweitzer and Rehberg had just testified to the committee in
favor of continuing to kill bison who leave Yellowstone, lest they
transmit brucellosis to domestic cattle.
“Slaughter is not management,” responded committee chair Nick
Rahall (D-West Virginia). “It is an approach from a bygone era and
has no place in a time of rapid and scientific and economic progress.
We are capable of more ingenuity and more compassion, if we are
willing to try.”
Rahall in 2003 proposed a budget amendment that would have
stopped the Yellowstone bison killing program. It failed, 220-199,
a narrow margin in a Congress then controlled by the Republicans.
“That vote was a harbinger of what will come, that the status quo is
no longer sufficient,” warned Rahall.
More than 1,000 bison who wandered out of Yellowstone
National Park were killed during the winter of 2005-2006. Only two
were killed in 2006-2007, however, partly because a milder winter
encouraged bison to stay inside the park, and perhaps partly also
because public outrage over the 2005-2006 killing had political