Open Season on Wolves in Wyoming

Many fear that wolves will end up right back on the endangered species list

(03/28/2008) - WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, the decision by the Bush administration to remove the Northern Rockies gray wolf from the list of species protected under the Endangered Species Act goes into effect.

The stripping of federal protections from the gray wolf places its continued survival in the Northern Rockies at the mercy of the insufficient and at times aggressively hostile state management plans developed by Wyoming, Idaho and to a lesser extent Montana. Wyoming’s plan in particular calls for dramatic reductions in the state’s wolf population with little to no justification for the removal of wolves by any means necessary.  Starting today, wolves can now be shot on sight for no reason in 88% of Wyoming – at least five wolf packs live in the shoot-on-site zone, and 10 more packs may drift in and out of this area. Idaho continues to send mixed messages regarding its commitment to ensuring a future for the gray wolf within its borders.

“This is a major setback for both wolves and the spirit of coexistence and conservation in the West,” said Suzanne Stone, Northern Rockies wolf conservationist for Defenders of Wildlife, who has spent the last twenty years working to restore wolves in the region. “Intentionally vague language in the Idaho and Wyoming management plans means that wolves can be killed without justification. We risk ending up right back where we started, with wolves back on the endangered species list and under federal control.”

The current state management plans permit wolf populations in the Northern Rockies to dramatically decline, eliminating any likelihood of establishing connections with Canadian wolf populations or promoting the establishment of wolf populations in other states such as Oregon, Washington, Utah and Colorado.

“It’s taken 13 years of hard work to finally reach the point where wolves are beginning to expand into more of their historic range in Utah, Colorado and Oregon. Delisting at this point threatens all that progress,” said Stone. “Living with wolves is part of life in the West. If people could just see past the pervasive fear-mongering they would find that people, wildlife and livestock can coexist just fine."

Background:

More than 200,000 gray wolves (Canis lupus) once lived throughout the United States. Aggressive wildlife killing campaigns led to wolf eradication from most of the country by the mid-1930s. Gray wolves have been listed as endangered since 1974, and were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and Central Idaho in 1995 and 1996.

Wolves are native to the northern Rockies and have begun once again to restore natural balance to the areas they are reoccupying, by culling weak and diseased elk, deer, and other prey, and dispersing elk more widely across their habitat and away from sensitive wetlands and meadows that suffer from overbrowsing. Elk populations still remain high, (more than 400,000 elk are present today in the region) and hunter harvest success remains as high as it was prior to the return of wolves. Ranchers are also successfully learning to reduce the limited wolf predation on livestock to manageable levels and are compensated for most known losses that do occur by Defenders or state compensation programs. Wolf-related tourism in the Yellowstone region has generated more than $35 million annually for local communities.

Learn more about what Defenders is doing to help the Northern Rockies wolf.

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Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.  With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come.  For more information, visit www.defenders.org.

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Contact(s):

Suzanne Stone, (208)424-9385 (office), (208)861-4655 (cell)
Mike Leahy, (406)586-3970
Erin McCallum, (202)772-3217