As part of their “status review” of the Gray Wolf in the Northern Rockies and the Western United States, The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) is “requesting scientific and commercial data and other information regarding the species and factors that may affect its status.” We don't have much time to make our voices heard and do our part to end the slaughter of wolves in the Northern Rockies and Western U.S.
In order to ensure that wolves are relisted, we need to provide the USFWS with valuable information and evidence that supports relisting. Below are some key messages that we think will be impactful as the USFWS considers the status of wolves in the Western U.S.
In addition, we request that you and your supporters work to find any evidence you can that points to why wolves need to be relisted. This can be graphic images from hunters’ pages or the wild or scientific evidence of what is happening on the ground in states where wolf slaughter is ongoing.
Key Takeaways for Comments
Climate change has shifted the science of species recovery and the ESA recovery goals for the gray wolf set in 1978 are woefully inadequate.
The Trump administration delisted the gray wolves in 2020 without engaging in meaningful consultation with tribes.
In states like Montana and Idaho, there have been widespread incidents of wolves being chased by automobiles, dogs, and helicopters. There have also been credible reports of pups being killed in their dens and wolf traps snaring dogs, horses, and livestock.
Photo by John Marriott
Climate change has shifted the science of species recovery and the ESA recovery goals for the gray wolf set in 1978 are woefully inadequate. The Trump Administration argued that delisting wolves was the right move because the gray wolf had long exceeded its recovery population goals and thus no longer needed protection. However, these recovery goals, set almost 35 years ago now, are too low, especially in the face of climate change (which can cause species range shifts, prey migration, droughts, etc.). In fact, there is even evidence that gray wolves, despite facing the ill-effects of climate change themselves, act as “climate change buffers” in Yellowstone, giving critical scavengers the chance to adapt.
Humans, and ranchers specifically, have been coexisting with wolves for millennia and there are a wide variety of effective and non-lethal wolf management techniques. Ancient techniques like fladry, which involves creating a perimeter of colorful flags around livestock, combined with contemporary techniques like strobe lights and loud noises have proven effective at keeping wolves from disturbing livestock populations. In addition to these tried and true methods, science has advanced to the point where it is possible to use microcapsules that will nauseate wolves and condition them to think that livestock is unappealing and disgusting.
In Yellowstone National Park, wolves were reintroduced in 1995. The return of wolves changed elk behavior, keeping them on the move, which in turn allowed young willow and aspen plants to survive when previously they would have been browsed by elk. The return of these plants then helped beaver populations recover, making the entire ecosystem healthier. Yellowstone wolves are now being baited out of the Park and slaughtered in Southern Montana as a part of the hunts that started there on Sept. 15.
TRIBAL TREATY RIGHTS
In addition to this status review, USFWS should initiate an emergency pause on the Gray Wolf delisting so that consultation with Tribal nations can take place before more wolves are slaughtered. More information on Tribal consultation can be found here.
The Trump administration delisted the gray wolves in 2020 without engaging in meaningful consultation with tribes. Had the Trump administration consulted Tribal nations –as treaty and trust responsibilities require – he would have heard that as a sacred creature the wolf is an integral part of our land based identity that shapes our communities, beliefs, and customs and traditions.
On September 14, 2021 leaders representing nearly 200 Tribal Nations sent a letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Indigenous cabinet member, urging her to act on an emergency petition to restore wolves to the Endangered Species List. Six Tribes have also filed a lawsuit against the state of Wisconsin to stop the wolf hunts.
President Biden and Secretary Haaland must take concrete action to demonstrate that the current administration is truly serious about honoring this country’s treaty and trust responsibilities. Relist the gray wolf on the Endangered Species list.
In early 2021, Western states passed legislation that not only lifted limits on how many wolves could be slaughtered but these laws also changed how wolves could be killed. In states like Montana and Idaho, there have been widespread incidents of wolves being chased by automobiles, dogs, and helicopters. There have also been credible reports of pups being killed in their dens and wolf traps snaring dogs, horses, and livestock. These mass slaughter techniques will continue unchecked unless the federal government steps in and puts wolves back on the endangered species list.