First was the hiring, by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, of a hunter to travel into federal wilderness to eliminate two wolf packs. The reason: wolves kill elk, and humans want to hunt elk. Normally the agency would just rely on hunters to kill the wolves, but because the area where these packs roam — in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness — is remote, the agency decided it would be more efficient to bring in a hired gun. A photo last week in The Idaho Statesman showed the hunter, Gus Thoreson, astride a horse, with three pack mules, looking like a modern-day Jeremiah Johnson.
Second is this weekend outside Salmon, Idaho, at a Coyote and Wolf Derby sponsored by a group called Idaho for Wildlife. A not-too-subtle poster for the event shows a wolf with its head in the cross hairs of a rifle scope and announces $2,000 in prizes to defend “our hunting heritage” against “radical animal-rights groups.”This means that there is no area remote enough for wolves to survive away from hunting and trapping. Taking entire packs hurts the bio-diversity of the species.
It’s a sad coincidence that this weekend is also the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, which was signed into law on Dec. 28, 1973. That act sought to enshrine sound science and wise ecosystem management over heedless slaughter and vengeful predation. Idaho is showing what a mistake it was to lift the shield from wolves too soon.Idaho's Hunting and Trapping rules are already lax enough for hunters. There's a 5 wolf bag limit and electronic calling is allowed.
Wolves are the scapegoats for the decline in the elk population throughout North America. This is a decline that has many causes beginning with global warming/climate change and loss of habitat to development, mining, and resource extraction. Should wolves be brought back to the edge of expiration in the US because they are seen as competition by elk hunters?
Other reasons for elk decline in Yellowstone Park
A number of Park elk herds have declined since a few years after wolves were reintroduced. Those people who are not capable of understanding any multi-step argument, have simply said, “Wolves eat elk. Elk numbers are down. Wolves caused the decline since nothing else in Yellowstone has changed."
The person who is even minimally observant and visits regularly knows that many things have changed since the wolves were reintroduced. There has been nearly continuous drought, which is most likely the new and adverse climate. The vital whitebark pine nuts grizzlies eat in autumn have declined greatly too because of fire, drought, and the spread of exotic whitebark pine blister rust.
A recent meta-study of 20 studies of bear diet and elk populations (from 1985 to 2012) gives evidence that the Lake trout invasion led indirectly to elk population decline as the grizzly bears began to seek out elk calves
Wolves contribute to the ecosystem that supports ungulates.
The Conservation Science Blog
This supports the hypothesis that wolves, by reducing the intensity of browsing by white-tailed deer, are reversing the biotic impoverishment of understory plant communities caused by decades of overabundant deer populations. Similar contrasts between areas of high and low wolf use were found by DPJ Kuijper and coauthors in Poland, where browsing intensity of tree saplings was lower inside wolf core areas. At a finer scale within wolf core areas, sites with more coarse-woody debris, which is an impediment to escape from wolf predation, had even lower browsing rates, supporting the conclusion that at least a portion of the effects on vegetation are behaviorally-mediated rather than solely due to lower numbers of ungulates.