Man’s fear and hatred of wolves goes back centuries. That unbridled fear is ingrained into our cultural fabric by stories like “Little Red Riding Hood,” and “The Three Little Pigs,” stories aimed at instilling fear into us as children. We were never told that wolves and other predatory species play a critical role in our ecosystem.
According to advocateswest.org, the gray wolf once called most of North America its home, and was nearly exterminated out of ignorance, over the last century. The wolf, a top predator species, is critical to maintaining healthy vibrant ecosystems by keeping prey populations under control.
It was because of the protection of the Endangered Species Act that wolves were able to rebound in sections of their lost historic range. In the Northern Rockies region reintroduction of species in the 1990’s has been a great success. Wolves are now seen not only in the Yellowstone region, but the Sawtooth Valley and other parts of Idaho and Montana, and in rare cases, parts of New England too.
Despite the environmental gains we have made, animosity towards wolves still runs deep in some circles, like among many public lands ranchers who fear (without reason) that wolves will destroy their livestock.
The ranching industry has a lot of political clout, state and federal wildlife managers kill entire wolf packs if so much as a single sheep or calf is killed by wolves, even if it is the ranchers fault for turning out their livestock right in the midst of a wolf den.
The fate of our wolves is in jeopardy and now rests in the hands of state officials. Some states are taking an extreme approach to wolf management. Congress has eliminated federal protections for gray wolves, so now it is our responsibility to protect them. We need to make state officials adopt a more practical, species friendly, wolf management plan.
A two-year battle attempting to prevent the slaughter of wolves in the Rocky Mountain States ended in May, when the federal government ended its protection of the animals.
The interior secretary, Ken Salazar, said populations of wolves throughout the Rocky Mountains have rebounded to sustainable levels, according to DOI.GOV.
Federal protection for wolves is set to end in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin, as well, said Salazar.
“Like other iconic species such as the whooping crane, the brown pelican and the bald eagle, the recovery of the gray wolf is another success story of the Endangered Species Act,” Salazar said. “From a biological perspective, they have now recovered.”
Environmental organizations say the federal government is wrong and their move is premature and opens the gates to their slaughter once again.
Montana and Idaho are currently planning to start hunting them in the fall. The federal government however, did not end protections in Wyoming and is continuing their protection of wolves. State authorities there have been insisting on shoot-on-sight rules for wolves.
All three states are lobbying hard to eliminate federal government protections because they believe the species has recovered and now poses a big threat to ranchers.
In 2009, federal wildlife officials agreed, but were prevented by environmental organizations who kept state governments tied up in court for two years.
The states got what they wanted in the spring when the White House and Congress agreed to eliminate funds and remove environmental measures crucial to the protection and preservation of wolves in some back room compromise designed as an appeasement offer aimed at getting a budget passed.
It is the first time Congress has intervened to remove federal protections for a plant or animal. Environmental organizations are afraid that states will now move to drastically reduce populations, in the name of protecting livestock.