Today, the wildlife advocacy group, Big Wildlife, urged the Obama Administration to reject the Idaho Fish and Game's (IDFG) request to kill nearly 100 wolves near the Lolo National Forest. This week, Idaho officials said it was developing a plan to remove nearly 80 percent of wolves in two "game" management areas ostensibly to boost elk numbers. Under a provision of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), states are permitted to kill wolves where officials claim the animals are preventing "game" populations from reaching management goals. The IDFG said the proposal will be open to public review, then submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"Idaho is using perceived elk declines as a Trojan horse to launch an assault on wolves. The Obama Administration should flatly reject the state's request to slaughter up to 100 wolves," said Brian Vincent, Communications Director of Big Wildlife.
Big Wildlife said anti-predator groups often claim wolves and other top carnivores are responsible for declines in deer and elk. But the wildlife advocates said many factors contribute to fluctuations in ungulate populations. Although wolves and other predators do prey on elk and other ungulates, there is no evidence to indicate that this is the primary limiting factor on populations compared to other factors such as forage availability, hunting, birthing rates, disease, degraded habitat quality and/or loss, (e.g. increased road densities from logging that facilities higher hunter success, changes in vegetation due to fire suppression, competition with domestic farm and ranch animals for forage, and new subdivisions increasingly built in wildlife habitat). Instead of addressing these issues, Big Wildlife said the IDFG is hiding behind the predator scapegoat.
The wildlife protection group said in cases where predators are contributing to some reductions in ungulate populations, something that they can do on occasion, an intelligent response would be to ask, "What ecological benefit might be the consequence?" In the case of predator induced declines in ungulate numbers, prudent wildlife managers would point out how vegetative communities benefit from a reduction in heavy exploitation by herbivores, which in turn benefits both plant communities and ungulates in the long term. But the IDFG is silent when it comes to good ecological science, Big Wildlife said. Nor does the department talk about other positive ecological effects of predators including the tendency of deer and elk to spread themselves out on the landscape or how they kill different age classes of prey animals from hunters - both of which have significant ecological consequences.
There are an estimated 1,500 wolves in Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. Big Wildlife has argued that number is too low to maintain genetic diversity within the population. Unfortunately, imperiled wolves are facing increasing threats. The wildlife organization said a record number of 245 wolves was killed last year by government agencies and ranchers in the Northern Rockies. Last November, Big Wildlife condemned the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Department and the federal agency, Wildlife Services, for killing all 27 wolves, including pups, of the Hog Heaven pack near Kalispell. But the organization said the elimination of the Hog Heaven pack was not an isolated incident. In 2008 alone, seven wolf packs were completely wiped out in the Big Sky state.
"Instead of protecting one our of nation's most magnificent animals, Idaho wants to 'manage' wolves through the the barrel of a bazooka," said Vincent.
For more information go to Big Wildlife.