By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson
Time is running out for America’s gray wolves. The opportunity to weigh in on a proposed federal rule that would prematurely strip Endangered Species Act protections for the wolves in the lower 48 states ends soon, and it is important that you comment before May 12. These animals are still in a fragile state of recovery after years of persecution, and delisting them could have disastrous consequences for their future and for the well-being of the ecosystems in which they live.
The rule has no basis in science, as 100 scientists and scholars attested yesterday in a letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. In strong opposition to the rule, the scientists pointed out that the Endangered Species Act requires that a species be recovered throughout a larger portion of its historic range before it is delisted -- a goal that has not been achieved yet for wolves.
In reality, this rule is simply a handout from the Department of the Interior to trophy hunters, trappers and the agribusiness lobby -- the latest in more than 100 attacks on wolves and the ESA that we have seen in recent years. Congress and state and federal wildlife management agencies, under pressure from trophy hunting interests, have been pursuing this wolf-delisting agenda for decades, and have been spreading irrational fears and myths about wolves that have no basis in reality.
In a recent report, HSUS researchers debunked U.S. Department of Agriculture data on livestock killed by wolves that state and federal lawmakers have advanced to justify opening up a season on wolves. When our researchers compared livestock losses data released by state agencies and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, they found that the USDA data was highly exaggerated and that wolves accounted for less than 1% of cattle and sheep losses in the states where they live.
We can say for certain that if wolves lose their federal protections, these highly sentient, family-oriented animals will face an onslaught of cruelty, including death by trapping, poisoning, baiting and hounding. Consider their plight in Wyoming and Idaho, where they are already hunted. Wyoming considers 83% of the state a “predator zone” where trophy hunters and trappers can employ the most unspeakably cruel methods to kill or capture wolves with zero restraint. In Idaho, wildlife officials permitted trophy hunters, trappers and predator control agents to eradicate its population from nearly 1,000 wolves to 150. Idaho even allows hunters to kill multiple wolves, including at the den in springtime when whole families are vulnerable.
In the Great Lakes region, wolves will face all of those perils and more, because Wisconsin will resume a drastic and unscientific wolf population reduction program and Michigan will open a hunting and trapping season that was soundly rejected by the state’s own voters in the 2014 general election.
Most Americans do not support trophy hunting wolves, and some states have also taken a stand against delisting. Minnesota’s Gov. Tim Walz came out with a strong statement that he supports legislation banning the hunting of wolves and the California Fish and Game Commission recently voted to oppose it. We’ve seen an outpouring of opposition to the proposed rule in recent public hearings in Colorado, California and Oregon.
The wolves need your support too, and they need you to act fast. Please comment at the link below before close of business on May 12, and let the Department of the Interior know you oppose this cruel delisting.
Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.