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Groups Sue To Overturn Removal of Greater Yellowstone Wolves from Endangered Species List


Known as "B160," this black, collared male wolf was poached in the Salmon River Canyon near Clayton, Idaho, according to the NRDS. Thought to be about six years old and part of the Morgan Creek pack, B160 was found dead about 70 yards from Highway 75. NRDC photo.

Has Yellowstone National Park's wolf recovery program, now more than a decade old, succeeded? The federal government thinks so, as evidenced by the removal of greater Yellowstone wolves last month from the Endangered Species List. But a coalition of conservation group differs, and has filed a lawsuit to overturn the delisting.

Since wolves were returned to Yellowstone and central Idaho back in 1995, that seedstock has blossomed to roughly 1,500 animals. That's a lot of wolves, to say the least. But some biologists say a sound recovery program can't sustain itself, genetically, without two or three times that number.

Since the greater Yellowstone wolves lost ESA protection last month, nearly 40 have been killed in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, according to an Associated Press report. Today the Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, The Humane Society of the United States, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Friends of the Clearwater, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands Project, Western Watersheds Project, and the Wildlands Project sought a court order to overturn the delisting.

“Until now the reintroduction of gray wolves to the Northern Rockies was one of our greatest endangered species success stories,” said Louisa Willcox, director of the NRDC’s office in Livingston, Montana. “Now the region has become a killing field for wolves, just as we predicted. Dozens of wolves have been killed already, and more are certain to die under state laws that in many cases allow unregulated wolf killing anywhere, anytime, for any reason.”

The filing argues that the killings must stop while the court decides whether the government acted appropriately in delisting the predators. NRDC filed a petition in February requesting that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service establish legitimate targets for recovery of wolves throughout the lower 48 states.

In its petition, NRDC contends that the service failed to recover wolves on much of the available public lands where wolves formerly lived and ignored decades of scientific analysis. Without explanation or any scientific basis, the service set widely different recovery goals in the Midwest, Northern Rockies and Southwest regions, according to the group.

“The gray wolf simply hasn’t recovered yet. Every animal that falls victim to bait or bullet increases the odds that wolves will slide back toward extinction,” Ms. Willcox said.

Of course, a little hyperbole is in play here. The wolf is not in danger of going extinct any time soon, as evidenced by the packs that roam Canada and Alaska, not to mention Russia. But the health of the greater Yellowstone ecosystem just might be in play. After all, before wolves were returned to Yellowstone the park's elk herds had burgeoned, and in turn the ungulates beat down the spread and growth of aspen and willows, which some believe hampered growth of the park's beaver populations. Those are just the most obvious environmental cascades associated with the keystone predator's return. There are many more.

Then, too, there is the economic boost wolves have provided the communities surrounding Yellowstone. Tens of thousands of visitors flock to Yellowstone each year to see and hear wolves in the wild, contributing at least $35 million to the local economy each year, the coalition said.

Thousands of gray wolves roamed the Rocky Mountains before being slaughtered and eliminated from 95 percent of the lower 48 states by the 1930s. The gray wolf was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 1973. Reintroduction efforts placed 66 wolves in Yellowstone and part of Idaho in 1995-96.


And to think them thar cowpokes are outsmarting you.  Go figure?

I think that is terrible and horrible to watch or see no animal should be treated this way and you know humans are animals to so its like they are killing family a part of who you are! Its discusting

Hey Anonymous, you may call Mr Saunders a skilled hunter but he had a cheap shot. Another words, unethical kill! If you peacock ranchers allow wildlife to have it's natural space to roam and breed and just maybe there can be some natural balance between predator and prey ratio. NOoooooo, we need more happy cows and more range land and will just smother out the rest of wildlife with cheap gun smoke. Don't tell me differently, I've seen this kind of scenario played over for years with you yahoo cowboys. Good cowboys know the wisdom of wise ethical hunting and don't expound by cheap cow talk or brag about a easy slaughter of wildlife.

Those wolves are vicious...kill 'em before they get your pets or kids. Our ancestors killed 'em all off for good reason!

That there Tony Saunders in that picture is a killin' mochine! I know Tony...he is quite the skilled hunter. He's a good man!

I hope and pray that the removal of the wolves from The Endangered Species List is overturned.

Nobody is suggesting the solution is simple, or even black and white. One side states that the lands were given to us by the governing body for this expressed purpose. The other side states that you knew better when you undertook you're money-making endeavor. The simple biology of the situation is summarized by one basic premise: Kill the predators and the population of prey animals increases exponentially, no matter what symbiotic relationship you use as an example. Kill the prey and the predators find new sources of nutrients, which in this instance might include YOU. Probably not, since there aren't enough humans in the area to sustain a populace over time.

So, kill the wolf, cougar and other top predators, and when the bison, elk, mule deer, etc. compete unencumbered for the grazing lands, as has happened before and will again, and when in times of strife the lands simply will not sustain the burgeoning population or grazing animals that you have encouraged, do you propose to eliminate them as well?


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