US Fish and Wildlife Action Alert
March 8, 2012
Recently, US FWS came out with their 2011 Annual Report. In it, this federal agency stated, “These population estimates indicate the credible and professional job Montana and Idaho have done in the first year after they have assumed full management responsibilities, as well as successful cooperative efforts to manage wolves in the remaining portions of the range,” said Steve Guertin, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director of the Mountain-Prairie Region. “We believe the management plans developed and implemented by the states will maintain a healthy wolf population at or above our recovery goals.” [Reference: http://www.fws.gov/pacific/news/news.cfm?id=2144374970 ]
We believe it is safe to assert that the nature of calculating wolf populations is not an exact science; current wolf population numbers are merely estimates and not confirmed data.
Scientific studies show that human killing of wolves is associated with an increase in total overall wolf mortality; we believe that wolf populations will decline beyond the predictions of the management agencies, as a result. The altered pack structure that results from human-caused mortality is a significant concern for wolf conservation because it results in additional wolf population losses beyond the mere number of wolves directly killed by humans. The effects of both the loss of the wolves planned or expected to be killed by humans directly – plus an increment of additional wolf population loss that will result from reduced breeding and survival resulting from the altered pack structure has been inappropriately discounted.
In a recent peer reviewed scientific study, (Hunting Wolves in Montana – Where Is The Data? Nature and Science, 2011; 9(9): 175-182), independent biologist, Jay S. Mallonee, revealed that the data collection methods used by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks re: wolf populations in the state did not follow scientific protocol. Thus, the resulting data generated by these collection methods must be not be considered conclusive at this time and should not be used as a reference point by other wolf managers in the region.
The recovery target is 100 wolves/ ten packs per state. The Recovery Plan’s standard would provide for only 20 breeding individuals (two alphas in each pack). The best available science supports what is known as the 50/500 rule. This standard for a minimum viable population indicates that 50 breeding individuals are needed for a population to be ecologically viable over the short term. Under the 50/500 standard, 500 breeding individuals are needed for a population to be evolutionarily viable over the long-term – i.e. 100 years. Because the breeding population is only likely to be 10 to 20 percent of the total population, the 500 rule translates to a total population of approximately 2,500 to 5,000 individuals for long-term viability. [Soule and Wilcox (1980), Frankel and Soule (1981), Lande (1988), Lande (1995), Frankham (1995), Franklin and Frankham (1998), Fallon (2008), and Palstra and Ruzzante (2008).]
Based on recent announcements, it appears that the states of Montana and Idaho still seek to reduce the numbers of wolves in the state using measures that some may consider unconventional and even highly controversial (i.e.: trapping, snaring, electronic calls, baiting and lures, poisoning, aerial gunning, etc.) We feel these measures will not ensure sustainable wolf populations and may, in fact, increase the risk of relisting the wolf as an endangered species.
Over 500 wolves have been killed thus far in 2011 as a result of the wolf hunts in Montana and Idaho (which has not closed its season yet).
Montana plans to be much more aggressive in hunting wolves in upcoming seasons, according to Fish, Wildlife and Parks Director Joe Maurier. Options include allowing wolf trapping, the taking of more than one wolf per person, approving the use of electronic calls, reducing the price of nonresident wolf hunting licenses from $350 to $50, and/or lengthening the season. FWP also is looking at removing quotas, so wolves could be hunted across the state throughout the season. [Reference – http://missoulian.com/news/local/state-says-wolf-hunts-will-be-more-aggressive-in-coming/article_c112c65c-68d1-11e1-b652-0019bb2963f4.html ]
In Idaho, wolf numbers are down for the second consecutive year. At the end of 2011, the state’s population was estimated at 746 wolves, down from a high of 856 at the end of 2009. Despite this, Idaho continues an extremely aggressive wolf hunt with no quotas, a long hunt season, and the use of highly controversial practices. [Reference: http://lmtribune.com/article_66c6d346-688b-11e1-8e5f-001a4bcf6878.html ]
Wyoming’s highly controversial “shoot on site” plan (which includes hunting on national park land) is presently awaiting final USFWS approval. Many believe that the plan outlined in this legislation, with its dual classification and a predator zone in most of the state, is not legally defensible. So now, Wyoming is looking to Congress to protect its controversial plan by passing another “no judicial review” law to prevent the plan from being challenged in court.
Fish and Wildlife Service has stated that a cut in federal wolf management funding comes along with taking wolves off the Endangered Species List. This is a federal agency, and, thus, we are all stakeholders in the management of wolves in this country. We must tell the Dept. of the Interior and USFWS that we vehemently disagree with its conclusions regarding wolf management in the Northern Rockies, and we hold them accountable for the potential second wave of wolf extermination in the West.
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