Posts Tagged ‘Rocky Mountain wolves’

Mark Derr writes about whether the science behind delisting the wolf population in three Rocky Mountain states is justified.

Much of his critique of Mech is justified, except that I do agree with Mech that we have to avoid both vilifying and overly romanticizing wolves.

Wolves are still predators, and although they don’t often attack people, they certainly can do a lot of damage to a dog.

The real question is whether wolf numbers in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming have actually reached a sustainable level.

And the bulk of the science says no.

But of course, that hasn’t stopped the US Fish and Wildlife Service from delisting them.

I don’t think that one can make the case that a wolf hunt in Minnesota is unjustified. Minnesota stopped its wolf bounties in the 1960’s, when Governor Karl Rolvaag vetoed the last of the wolf bounty bills that was passed by the state legislature. Minnesota’s DNR is staffed by pretty well-qualified professionals, and I don’t think Minnesota would destroy wolf populations in the same way Idaho would.

I was about to say the same about Wisconsin, but remember, Wisconsin’s government has been taken over by right wing fanatics, and Governor Walker has hired a “deer czar,” who considers wildlife management “the last bastion of communism.”  This czar is advising the state on how to privatize its deer herd, which cannot be good for wolves. The problem with Idaho is people think they own the elk and deer, and they want to kill off the wolves, which they think are decimating cervid herds.

I particularly liked Derr’s dig at Mech for scoffing at DNA analysis. The truth is Mech has been very dismissive of genetic studies on wolves, including the discovery that the much-ballyhooed “red wolf” is actually a coyote with some wolf ancestry.

There is still a huge debate about whether delisting the wolf in the Northern Rockies is a sound wildlife management decision. One might say it is entirely a political decision, but let’s keep in mind that the current administration couldn’t win any of those three states.

It seems to me that this is bad policy mixing in with bad politics.

It is true that I do have issues with the wolfaboo image of Canis lupus.

And I certainly have issues with the Little Red Riding Hood image.

I do think we need to have a reality-based assessment of wolves– which are not endangered as a species.

But I don’t think we’re ready to let Idaho manage its wolves.

At some point, we will need to have wolf management plans in place, and Minnesota could be a great model for developing these plans.

Let it be known that I’m not opposed to wolf hunting as a management tool. Wolves are much better off when they have a very healthy fear of people, and whenever wolf packs take to killing dogs or livestock , they need to be culled.

But I don’t think we should go back to the days when wolves were shot, trapped, and poisoned for bounty money. We definitely shouldn’t go back to the days when people caught wolves and tortured them. On the frontier, it was common for people to catch wolves in pits, and they would either hamstring them or bind their jaws shut and turn them dogs on them. Or they would leave a bitch in season tied out, and when the male wolves would mate with her, they would catch them in a tie  and hack the wolf up with a hatchet.

There has to be some middle way. I agree with Mech very much in this respect.

But I don’t think we’ve found it yet.


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