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Wolves under fire; Idaho hunter called ‘wolf murderer’

September 3rd, 2009

From Green Right Now Reports

At least three of Idaho’s wolves have been killed as hunting commenced this week under the first authorized sport wolf hunt in the lower 48 states.

But while the hunt has attracted sportspeople, it has repelled others.  A Lewiston-area man who killed the first wolf on opening day told the local media that he has received numerous calls of protest.

Robert Millage, a real estate agent, says he’s been called a “wolf murderer, a fat redneck and other names” in some 50 phone calls and hundreds of e-mails, according to the Lewiston Tribune. (To see a picture of the young wolf Millage killed view the story on Lewiston’s KLEW-TV.)

Idaho’s wolf season began on Tuesday, putting up to 220 (the maximum allowed kill) of the state’s estimated 1,000 wolves in jeopardy.

This hunting season follow nearly two decades of wolf restoration in the region.  The Rocky Mountain Wolf population was restored in the US in the mid-1990s with the introduction of gray wolves from Canada to try to replace US wolves, which were annihilated over decades of hunting and defensive shooting by ranchers. The restoration seeded the predators in the Yellowstone National Park area and allowed them to grow while under the protection of the Endangered Species Act.

When their numbers reached what the US government said was a sustainable level — there are about 1,500 to 1,600 wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming — the wolves were “delisted” from the ESA, allowing the states to take over their management.

But many environmentalists say that the Idaho wolves — as well as a smaller population of several hundred in Montana, where the hunt begins Sept. 15 — have not reached levels that can be maintained.

“The heavy-handed wolf hunt beginning today in Idaho, together with the hunt planned to begin September 15th in Montana, puts the recovery of the Northern Rockies population of wolves at risk and demonstrates precisely the kind of irresponsible state management that should have precluded taking the wolf off the endangered species list at this point in time,” said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife in a statement issued on Tuesday.

Added Suzanne Stone, a wolf expert for Defenders: “Today’s hunt undermines decades of tremendous support, time and investment from the American public, federal, tribal and state wildlife agencies, and threatens one of the most successful wildlife restorations in history.”

Defenders, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice and other groups have petitioned a federal court in Montana to stop the state hunts and reinstate federal protection for the wolves.

Friends of Animals, meanwhile, has urged those opposed to the wolf hunts to fight back — with a boycott of Idaho potatoes.

“As long as Idaho is in the business of killing wolves, the nature-respecting public should stop buying potatoes there,” said FOA president Priscilla Feral, explaining that consumers could look for potatoes grown in Maine, Colorado, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington and other states.

This federal government has been taking steps for the past several years to remove the wolves from protection and has been stopped at least twice by court injunctions when environmentalists intervened. Those groups have argued that the wolf population should be at least 2,000, if not more, to be sustainable.

Wyoming, the only other US state where the wolves live in the wild, has not been allowed to institute a federal hunt. The US Fish and Wildlife Service was worried that Wyoming’s preliminary hunting plan was malicious.

As state hunting agencies add sport hunting to their menu of wolf control measures, it is worth noting that wolves already are subject to legal lethal measures when they interfere with livestock.

In 2008, 153 wolves were confirmed to have died in Idaho. Agency control and “legal landowner take in response to wolf-livestock depredation” accounted for 108 deaths, according to a detailed report by the Idaho Fish and Game Department. Other human causes (including illegal take) accounted for 23 deaths; 18 wolves died of unknown causes, and 4 wolves died of natural causes.

Also during 2008 calendar year, 96 cattle, 218 sheep, 12 dogs, and 1 horse foal were classified by
Idaho game officials as confirmed wolf kills; 32 cattle, 46 sheep, and 1 dog were considered probable kills by wolves.

The report contains numerous maps and charts, suggesting that the Idaho wolves, are well tracked. It also shows that the number of breeding wolf pairs declined slightly in 2008, before the hunts were authorized.

(Photos: Gray wolf, Idaho Fish and Game Department; Game official with wolf pup, USFWS.)


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