Fishy deals menace wolves

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November/December 2013:


ended on December 17, 2013 on the latest U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
attempt to remove grey wolves from the U.S. endangered species list as
purportedly fully recovered.
“Wolves across the U.S. will be left to be hunted, trapped,
and even beaten or poisoned––whatever the state which they call home
sees fit,” warned Endangered Species Coalition executive director
Leda Huta.

The Fish & Wildlife Service has sought to delist grey wolves
since 2007, but has been thwarted several times by litigation. Grey
wolves in most of the Lower 48 states where they exist were also removed
from Endangered Species Act protection by Congress through 2011 budget
rider. That was also reversed, but only temporarily. Wolf hunting
has resumed in recent years in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Idaho, Montana,
Wyoming, and most recently Michigan, where the first wolf season in 40
years was promoted in large part by stories about how wolves were
allegedly eating farmer John Koski out of business.
Koski, 68, of Bessemer, Michigan, was on December 3, 2013
arraigned for allegedly allowing two guard donkeys provided to him at
state expense to starve to death, while a third donkey was removed “in
very poor body condition,” according to a February 4, 2013 report by
Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist Brian Roell.

“This animal was very weak and likely dehydrated,” Roell
added, “since there is no water provided to the livestock.”
The donkeys were given to Koski to protect his cattle from
wolves. The charges against Koski were not filed until nine months
after Roell collected the evidence, near the end of the wolf hunting
“Records show Koski’s farm accounted for more cattle killed
and injured than all other farmers combined in the years the Department
of Natural Resources reviewed to set the wolf hunt’s boundaries,”
reported John Barnes of
“Since 2010, Koski has had 96 cattle killed in verified wolf
attacks on his Matchwood farm in Ontonagon County,” Barnes
continued. “That’s more than half of the 158 cattle killed or
injured in the entire Upper Peninsula for the period used to establish
Michigan’s wolf hunt. “Koski has collected nearly $33,000 in
cattle-loss compensation from the state for that same period, more than
all other farmers combined. The donkeys cost an additional $1,650. A
$1,316 electric fence provided by the state to protect cows while
calving also disappeared, he says trampled when neighbors turned it
Earlier, Barnes reported finding “a months-old cow carcass in
an open air barn on Koski’s property, deer legs in a pickup bed that
Koski acknowledged were for baiting wolves by hunters, and bones of
numerous past cattle deaths. The law requires dead cattle to be buried
within 24 hours,” to avoid attracting wolves.
“A Freedom of Information Act request revealed that three
other dead cattle were found in May who had not been buried,” Barnes
The Koski saga was only one of many misrepresentations used to
promote the Michigan wolf hunt.
Michigan state senator Tom Casperson on November 7, 2013
apologized for including a fictionalized account of a wolf sighting near
a daycare center in a 2011 resolution urging the U.S. Congress to remove
Michigan gray wolves from the federal endangered species list.
“The Escanaba Republican, a leading advocate for and sponsor
of the law that led to Michigan’s wolf hunt, owned up to the error in
a floor speech,” reported Jonathan Oosting of the Grand Rapids Press.

What actually happened, Oosting wrote, was that Lori Holm of
Ironwood, Michigan, saw a wolf in her yard, near her Sheltie. She
screamed and the wolf ran away. The Casperson version was that “Wolves
appeared multiple times in the backyard of a daycare center shortly
after the children were allowed outside to play. Federal agents
disposed of three wolves in that backyard because of the potential
danger to children.”
“But there were no children in the backyard that day,”
Oosting continued. “There was a single wolf, not three. Three
wolves eventually were shot––seven months later, on three separate
days, on a plot roughly three-quarters of a mile from Holms’
While the 2013 Michigan wolf hunt proceded, the Keep Michigan
Wolves Protected coalition gathered signatures to put a second anti-wolf
hunting referendum on the next state ballot. “This referendum,”
explained the coalition, “will preserve the impact of our first
referendum that we have already certified for the ballot.”
Keep Michigan Wolves Protected petitioned successfully to put
the first referendum question on the 2014 ballot after the Michigan
legislature authorized the state Natural Resources Commission to
establish a wolf hunting season.
But almost as soon as the petitions were certified, the
Michigan legislature passed a second law that allows the Michigan
Natural Resources Commission to unilaterally add animals to the state
list of species who may be legally hunted. Michigan regulatory
decisions are not subject to reversal by referendum.
The second Keep Michigan Wolves Protected referendum question
seeks to reverse the extension of authority to designate “game
species” to the Natural Resources Commission.
Further complicating Michigan wolf politics, a coalition
assembled by the pro-hunting Michigan United Conservation Clubs on
December 2, 2013 began a drive to place on the 2014 state ballot a
measure that would counter the second Keep Michigan Wolves Protected
referendum question by affirming a 1996 voter-approved law that allows
the Michigan Natural Resources Commission regulate hunting.
“It would also allocate $1 million for ‘rapid response’
activities against aquatic invasive species such as Asian carp,”
explained David Eggert of Associated Press. “Under state law, tacking
on the appropriation would make the legislation immune from being
overturned in a referendum. The measure would also allow active
military members to get free hunting, fishing and trapping licenses
instead of having to pay $1.00, mirroring a change included in a wolf
hunt bill signed earlier this year by Governor Rick Snyder.”

Utah anti-wolf funding

A Utah legislative audit meanwhile exposed another sort of fishy
anti-wolf politics. Summarized Brian Maffly of the Salt Lake Tribune,
“The influential hunting group Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife and its
spinoff Big Game Forever have been awarded $800,000 during the past four
years to help strip the gray wolf of federal protection. It remains
unclear how Big Game Forever director Ryan Benson spent the $300,000
awarded in 2012, although nearly two-thirds went to his private
business in the form of ‘consulting fees,’ according to the audit.
Some $40,000 was spent on Washington, D.C. lobbyist Tim Rupli; $30,000
on video production; $16,000 on ‘software,’ and $11,000 on trade
“Particularly troubling to legislative auditor general John
Schaff,” Maffly continued, “was the Department of Natural
Resource’s insistence that Big Game Forever be paid the full contract
amounts each year before completing any work, and that Benson
‘commingled’ the state money with funds from outside sources.”
Added Maffly, “Don Peay, a founder of Sportsmen for Fish &
Wildlife and Big Game Forever, persuaded lawmakers to make the most
recent $300,000 appropriation on the premises that federal wildlife
officials intend to plant Mexican grey wolves in southern Utah, and
that such a move would destroy the region’s wildlife. U.S. Fish and
Wildlife officials have denied that such a plan is in the works,
although some government scientists believe parts of Utah should be
included in the imperiled subspecies’ recovery area.”
The Fish & Wildlife Service plan to remove grey wolves from
endangered species protection does not affect the status of Mexican grey
wolves and red wolves, whose populations remain fragile, 15 and 26
years after reintroduction to portions of their former wild range.
Fewer than 100 red wolves persist in northeastern North Carolina and
small portions of adjoining states––and nine of them have been shot
since January 2013, apparently mistaken for coyotes. The shootings
began soon after North Carolina allowed hunters to spotlight and shoot
coyotes at night.

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