Thursday, June 13, 2024

Guest column: Senators' wolf column ignores vitriol toward the species

by Marc Cooke
| April 7, 2022 11:35 AM

Gray wolves in the Northern Rockies need federal protection to stave off the onslaught of measures the states have passed to kill as many as possible.

Sens. Steve Daines of Montana and Jim Risch of Idaho recently blasted U.S. Interior Sec. Deb Haaland for her opinion piece questioning how states are managing their wolves, based on a series of measures several states have taken. It’s worth taking a look at both Montana’s and Idaho’s moves to see why Haaland is justified in considering restoring federal protection.

Our organization, Wolves of the Rockies, joined several other groups last year to form the #RelistWolves Campaign to urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore protections for wolves under the Endangered Species Act. That move was made after legislatures passed a series of bills that amount to an all-out assault on wolves.

These include allowing baiting, night hunting with special vision devices, snaring and an unlimited take of wolves, as well as bounties on the species. The goal is clear: kill as many wolves as possible and drive them down to a bare minimum number.

Why do we need such extreme measures that completely disregard any sense of fair chase in hunting, endanger other wildlife and make our states and their hunters look like extremists?

Admittedly, we are wolf advocates. We see their place on the landscape as signs of a functioning ecosystem, one that includes the suite of predators as well as prey. However, that doesn’t mean we’re against hunters. Wolves of the Rockies respects hunters for the role they play in conservation, and their success leading the restoration of wildlife is incredible. I have friends who are hunters, and even though I personally don’t hunt, I respect them for their work conserving habitats and helping fund wildlife conservation and management.

But after reading the Risch and Daines column, one wonders whether they just took talking points from the extreme anti-wolf crowd.

Idaho has authorized baiting, night hunting, snaring and unlimited take. Its agency has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on wolf bounties, paying the Foundation for Wildlife Management, a group that pays its own board members with bounty money. Idaho’s law has a goal to kill up to 90 percent of the wolf population.

Montana passed similar draconian measures including baiting, night hunting, snaring and bounty payments. These actions come at the same time that Gov. Gianforte’s FWP says it’s desperate to kill elk — a guise to give bull elk tags to major campaign donors.

Both states have made it clear that they’re not done. More extreme measures are on the way, including the potential to legally reclassify wolves as predators so they can be shot year-round and poisoned.

No species has ever been so aggressively killed immediately after coming off the Endangered Species List, and no species deserves such indignity. There is no other animal for which we manage to have a bare minimum number, including other predators like mountain lions and black bears.

Montana and Idaho have shown that they can’t be trusted to manage wolves, and until they come forward with reasonable regulations that maintain some sense of ethics, federal protection is warranted.

Marc Cooke serves as president of Wolves of the Rockies, an advocacy group that supports gray wolves. He is a veteran and speaks frequently about the ecological value of wolves on the landscape.