Entire Packs of Wolves Being Wiped Out in Northern Rockies
Imperiled wolves are facing increasing threats across the Northern Rockies. Last year, Big Wildlfe condemned the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Department (MFWP) and the federal agency, Wildlife Services, for killing an entire wolf pack near Kalispell. The agencies’ killing of all 27 wolves of the Hog Heaven pack was unnecessary and brutal. Tragically, the elimination of the Hog Heaven pack was not an isolated incident. Big Wildlife is concerned the federal government, along with state agencies, will continue to ramp up their killing of wolves. In 2008 alone, a record 245 wolves in the Northern Rockies were killed by federal or state agents and ranchers. Seven wolf packs were completely wiped out in Montana last year.
“Wolves are supposed to be protected under the Endangered Species Act. But anti-wolf groups, in cahoots with state agencies, continue their all-out assault on the species,” said Spencer Lennard, Pacific Northwest Director of Big Wildlife.
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. In addition, we are concerned that since federal protections were removed this year, “management” of the species has been handed over to states with an open hostility toward wolves. All three Northern Rockies state wolf “management” plans would permit hunting of wolves and place emphasis on aggressive lethal control of the species over non-lethal preventative measures. When federal safeguards were initially lifted in 2008, Wyoming declared 90 percent of the state a “predator management zone” where wolves could be shot on sight.
“As bad as 2008 has been for wolves, the coming years could be even worse. Nearly every wolf in the region could have a target on its back now that federal safeguards have been removed and ‘management’ of the animals has been given to states openly hostile to the species,” said Lennard.
The elimination of the Hog Heaven wolf pack highlighted a disturbing trend in wolf “management” in the region. Federal and state agencies are rushing to employ heavy handed, lethal methods to mollify a handful of ranchers. Instead of being “trigger happy,” the agencies should use a suite of non-lethal measures and incentives to reduce conflicts with wolves.
For example, Radio Activated Guard (RAG) boxes, as well as the “turbofladry,” have shown success in deterring wolves. When a radio-collared wolf steps onto a rancher’s land, the RAG boxes turn on a strobe light and a tape of different sounds, including people yelling, helicopters flying, glass breaking, and gunshots to scare the animal away. Fladry consists of a rope or wire that has strips of red or orange flagging along its length. The flagging acts as a psychological deterrent to wolves. When an electrified wire is added to the fladry, it is called 'Turbo-fladry'. The shock wolves receive when touching the wire conditions them to stay away. Other non-lethal methods include: erecting electric fencing, using guarding animals, penning animals at night, and installing motion detection lighting, strobes, and other devices that frighten wolves.
In cases where non-lethal measures are not practical, efforts should be made to move domestic animals off public lands and provide financial incentives to ranchers to set aside some private land as wolf conservation areas. In addition, Big Wildlife has advocated offering tax breaks to ranchers who employ non-lethal methods.
"What we are seeing now is wolf 'management' through the barrel of a bazooka,” said Lennard.
Big Wildlife will continue to push the Obama Administration to dramatically overhaul how the federal government deals with wildlife conflicts.
WOLVES UNDER ATTACK NATIONALLY - WHAT YOU CAN DO:
*Urge President Obama to overhaul how the federal government responds to alleged conflicts with wolves. Urge him to strengthen protections for the species. White House phone number: 202-456-1111 or submit comments at the White House website by clicking here.
*Urge the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Department to shift its actions away from aggressive lethal control of wolves toward policies that will safeguard the species and educate the public about how to prevent conflicts with wildlife.
Contact MFWP Director Joe Maurier at:
Phone: (406) 444-2535
Fax: (406) 444-4952