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May 2008

May 29, 2008

Inside the Courtroom

Today, I was in court while Judge Donnold Molloy heard oral arguments on our motion seeking a preliminary injunction to return legal ESA status to wolves in the northern Rockies while the lawsuit challenging the delisting rule is heard. EarthJustice attorney Doug Honnold and his colleagues Jenny Harbine and Tim Preso presented strong evidence that the injunction was necessary to stop the wolf killings that have been mounting since the March 28, 2008 delisting. 

The federal government, states of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, National Rifle Association, Safari Club International, and Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife opposed our request with their team of 15 attorneys. The arguments against the injunction included statements that the wolves in Wyoming’s shoot on sight zone (88% of the state) are “bad wolves”, which are not important to population reproduction. 

The judge recessed at lunchtime stating that he will make his decision soon.  Needless to say, the lives of many wolves are at stake. I will be watching closely so we can share any news as soon as it happens.

Stay Tuned...

Today U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy will hear the request by 12 environmental groups (including us) for a preliminary injunction. We'll keep you posted.

May 22, 2008

Breaking News: Idaho increases number of permissable wolf kills

Despite hundreds of comments from Idahoans against IDFG's proposed wolf hunting season, the IDFG commission today increased the number of wolves they will allow to be killed in the state from 328 to 428 from a population of only 700 wolves.  This is yet another example of why Idaho officials cannot be trusted to responsibly manage the state's wolf population. The season that they adopted would allow hunters to kill pups as young as only five months of age, which is long before they can hunt or defend themselves on their own.

This is extremely disappointing news because IDFG earlier had stated their intention to maintain the wolf population at or near its 2007 numbers of 732 wolves.

Spotlight On: Carter Niemeyer

Carter Niemeyer is the former Wolf Recovery Coordinator for the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Although now retired, he contines to work with wolves on a contractual basis with the Idaho Fish and Game department. He has been working on wolf issues in the Northern Rockies for more than 20 years, and was the recipient of the Wolf Recovery Foundation's "Alpha Award" in 1998.

I picked Carter's brain about his time working with wolves, and his valuable insights are below:

1). When did you first become interested in wolves and why?

I became interested in wolves out of necessity when I worked for Wildlife Services as a biologist/supervisor in western Montana in the mid-1980s.  Wolves began to naturally immigrate into northwest Montana from Canada and prey on livestock in that region.  It was my job to help stop depredations on livestock and to develop skills in capturing wolves and establish communications between the various groups affected by our actions including livestock producers and organizations, federal, state and Tribal agencies, conservation groups and the general public.  Out of necessity, I became an expert on wolf management issues and spent most of my career working to solve human/wolf/livestock conflict issues while at the same time working to help wolves recover in the Northern Rockies.

2). What do you think is the most important issue Northern Rockies wolves face today, and what can we do to help?

Co-existence with man is the principle issue in my opinion.  Wolves carry a lot of baggage -- from myth and fairy tale stories that feed people's fears to their need to survive as carnivores by eating meat including elk and deer that sportsmen want to occasionally killing pets and livestock, which causes emotional and economic hardship for farmers and ranchers.  Federal and state wolf managers need to carefully balance the needs of a diverse human society that fears and resents the wolf with those who love and admire the wolf.  Precisely because of the public's mixed attitudes and values regarding the wolf, managers must find ways to establish trust among everyone. It is the only way that wolves will survive in perpetuity.

3). What is the most rewarding experience you can remember during the long time that you have been working with wolves?

Each new experience I have with wolves seems to be more rewarding than the last, but I believe that resolving wolf conflicts with people has been the most rewarding of all.  I have been blessed with people skills and I can usually talk reason into anybody.  Also, I've used my skills as a hunter and trapper to capture, collar, and relocate many wolves that would otherwise have been killed for their transgressions (killing pets or livestock, or living to close to humans).  In a few instances I was required to kill wolves because I lacked other choices.  I have personally captured over 240 wolves in my career and the vast majority lived to see another day.

4). Are you hopeful for the future of wolves in the Northern Rockies region?

I'm optimistic that wolves are here to stay, at least in the Northern Rockies.  Wolf managers estimate that we have more than 1,500 wolves in 192 packs with individual wolves dispersing throughout the recovery areas. They are showing up in Washington, Oregon, Utah and one even ventured into Colorado before it was killed.  We have a viable wolf population with excellent genetic diversity.  The federal reintroduction team did an excellent job creating a foundation upon which to build and maintain a wolf  population that everyone to enjoy.  The problem isn't the wolf, it’s human/wolf conflicts both real and perceived, and these will most likely never go away.

May 21, 2008

Thank You!

Many thanks to our supporters who turned out for the Boise wolf population management meeting yesterday at the Idaho Fish and Game headquarters. Despite receiving only a few days notice of the meeting, more than three dozen wolf supporters turned out and asked the department to more carefully consider or outright reject plans to hunt wolves in the state. Many, like Francis, a young mother who juggled caring for her small children while speaking out for wolves, expressed serious concerns about the state's plans that would allow nearly 40% of the current wolf population to be killed. 

May 12, 2008

Lawsuit Moves Ahead

A federal judge in Montana rejected a request by the government to delay our lawsuit seeking to place the gray wolf back on the endangered species list. In rejecting the agency's request for a two-week extension in the case, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy set a hearing for May 29 in Missoula. Stay tuned...

May 09, 2008

Idaho Wolf Hunting Plan

Meetings are scheduled around Idaho over the next two weeks to hear the public comments on the Idaho’s wolf hunting plan. The plan’s main aim is to reduce the Idaho wolf population by 39%.  Currently, they are estimating that 328 of the wolves will be killed this year (from all causes) to meet their objective. The meetings are being held by Idaho Fish and Game department to get public input on the wolf hunting rules and regulations, or so it says. The fact that there is no meeting scheduled in Boise, the state’s capital, shows that the Fish and Game department seem to be trying to avoid the public at all costs, and are only holding meetings in areas where anti-wolf sentiments run high.

The plan allows for the removal of 328 wolves, which is a very high number of wolves, especially as the estimated population was 732 at the end of 2007. It is too early to have a hunting season, and these high wolf hunting numbers show that the state wolf plans are more a population reduction plan than any meaningful wolf management plan.

Wolves can also be killed by state or federal agencies, or by legal take under the new Idaho Senate Bill No. 1374, signed by Idaho Governor Butch Otter the day of delisting, which allows for wolves to be killed for…“annoying, disturbing or persecuting, especially with hostile intent or injurious effect, or chasing, driving, flushing, worrying, following after or on the trail of, or stalking or lying in wait for, livestock or domestic animals.” Obviously this law is impossible to enforce and would allow anyone to shot a wolf if it was anywhere near livestock or a pet. The combined effect of heavy hunting pressure and nearly unlimited authority to kill wolves will be a lot for the Idaho wolf population to bear. 

May 06, 2008

Some good news out of Idaho...

Finally, something to celebrate. It is a relief to find out that there were not 45,000 Idaho citizens ignorant enough to sign onto Ron Gillett's Ballot Initiative that sought to remove all wolves from the state of Idaho. Although -- it is more than a little disturbing that it received as many signatures as it did!

May 05, 2008

Non-Lethal Deterrents: Part III

Well the snow is starting to melt here in the west, and the cattle are slowly being put out to pasture. The winter has lasted a few weeks longer than usual this year and so the ranchers have had to supplement the cattle’s feed with hay, but now things are warming up and the first new grasses are starting to appear. This is also the time when we start our range rider projects across the Northern Rockies. Rr4

In partnership with livestock producers - mainly cattlemen - we help share the cost of paying a rider whose job it is to keep an eye on the cattle and watch out for any signs of wolves. If the cattle are bunched together or are acting nervous, it could be because wolves are in the area, or have just passed through.

The rider also looks out for wolf signs such as tracks and scat, or wolf hairs in the fence. The rider can also look out for sick or dead cattle, and move these off the range and nearer the ranch. Sick cattle and carcasses act as attractants for a variety of predators including wolves, bears, coyotes and eagles, and they should be brought nearer the ranch for doctoring . Dead cattle shoud be placed in a well-fenced, deep carcass pit.  These range riders are also armed with cracker shells. These are non-lethal ammunition that acts like a bottle-rocket and helps to scare away the wolves. The life of a rider involves getting up well before first light, and being out in the early evenings; this is because dawn and dusk are the times when wolves are most active.

This month we will have a range rider project in Philipsburg, MT, and another just outside of Cody, WY. We will keep you up-to-date on these projects throughout the summer.

May 01, 2008

In the News

It's heartening to witness the outpour of support we've received since the filing of our lawsuit. Our regional and national offices have received calls and emails from around the country - and even the world - expressing concern, outrage, dismay and most importantly - hope.

A recent editorial in the Los Angeles Times did a good job at explaining why such legal action is justified and necessary for the long term survival of the Northern Rockies wolf.

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