FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
One Thousand Wolves Killed In Western United States
Landmark American conservation success story is taking a tragic turn
In 2011, as part of a backroom political deal, western wolves were stripped of federal protections. Since then over half the population has been killed for sport.
In 2012, OR9, littermate of Journey (OR7), wandered into Idaho and was killed for sport. Over 1,000 wolves have met the same fate.
The conservation group Oregon Wild is announcing that over 1,000 wolves have been legally killed for sport in the Western United States since they were stripped of federal protections in a 2011 congressional budget deal. At the time, the estimated wolf population in the region was between 1,700 and 2,000 animals.
This grisly milestone was reached with little fanfare sometime in the last 24 hours as state game agencies updated their websites (ID, MT, WY). The death toll does not include wolves killed by government agents and poachers. It does include collared wolves from Yellowstone National Park and two Oregon Wolves.
Wolves were nearly eliminated from the continental United States through a government-sponsored campaign of trapping, hunting, and poisoning. After earning protections under the Endangered Species Act in 1973, American wolves began to make a recovery. That recovery was hastened in 1995 when wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho.
Widely seen as an icon of freedom, wilderness, and the American West, the recovery of wolves is one of America’s greatest conservation success stories. But in 2011, wolves were unceremoniously stripped of federal protections when congress attached a rider to a must-pass budget bill.
Since that time Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana have instituted recreational hunting and trapping seasons. Wyoming allows an unlimited number of wolves to be killed by nearly any means in the majority of the state.
The aggressive management is validating fears from wildlife advocates and scientists who expressed concern when Idaho passed a law calling for the eradication of wolves by "any means necessary" (link). Science has demonstrated the important and irreplaceable role wolves play on the landscape, and many scientists have warned such aggressive management may push wolves back to the brink.
Wolves remain protected in the majority of the state of Oregon where conservationists are celebrating a recent increase in wolf numbers and a significant decrease in conflict.
In 2012 Oregon's wolf killing program was put on a court-ordered hold. The number of livestock losses blamed on wolves decreased dramatically even as the population of wolves nearly doubled (statement). While two Oregon wolves dispersed into Idaho, both were killed within weeks, demonstrating just how tough it is to be a wolf in that state (statement).
With only 53 [Update: This number was later revised to 46 by state officials] known wolves in the entire state of Oregon (many of which are pups less than a year old) and the state no longer able to depend on healthy populations in neighboring states to bolster numbers here, conservationists caution recovery remains tenuous.
Below is a statement of Rob Klavins, Wildlife Advocate for Oregon Wild:
"In 2011 Congress and the Obama administration threw wolves to the Tea Party.
"Americans rightly celebrated the recovery of bald eagles and gray whales when they were removed from the protections of the Endangered Species Act. We didn't immediately resume whaling or hold a hunt aimed at killing half of America's bald eagles. Sadly, states like Idaho and Montana celebrated the de-listing of wolves with a hail of gunfire and trappers snares.
"Americans value native wildlife and it's a shame that one of our greatest conservation success stories is taking a tragic turn. In 2012, while other states showed that killing wolves only feeds conflict, Oregon showed it isn't necessary. It took a judge's order, but with the wolf killing program on hold, responsible ranchers stepped up, recovery got back on track, and conflict went down. That's something good for everyone.
"For some, old prejudices die hard, but Oregon has shown a better path forward. We hope our leaders and other states take notice. It's not often endangered wildlife receive a second - or third - chance."