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Wolves: Conservation groups seek to stop wolf hunts in Idaho & Montana

By Gary Bogue
Monday, August 24th, 2009 at 7:58 am in Wolves.

Howling wolf photo by Flickr user moosewhisper used under a Creative Commons license.

Conservation Groups Seek to Stop Wolf Hunts

In a continuation of the legal battle over wolves in the Northern Rockies,On Aug. 20 the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and a large consortium of conservation groups filed for an injunction to block wolf hunts this fall in the states of Idaho and Montana. The groups, with significant scientific backing, claim that the hunts will prevent the conditions necessary for full recovery, including a larger population and genetic exchange between the three subpopulations in the region.

Gray wolf by Flickr user Kevin in Canada used under a Creative Commons license.

“At a point when we are so close to having a truly restored wolf population, the State of Idaho is going to issue an unlimited number of wolf tags to eliminate 30 percent of the state’s wolf population,” said Louisa Willcox, Senior Wildlife Advocate for NRDC. “As a top predator, these creatures are vital to the health of the northern Rockies ecosystem, but many of the ecological improvements that we’ve seen as a result of their reintroduction to the region will be imperiled by the Idaho and Montana hunts. While we are not against hunting, we are against conducting them prematurely, and in such a reckless and counterproductive manner.

On Monday of this week, Idaho’s Fish and Game Commission announced their wolf hunting season would open September 1, with a quota of 255 wolves (220 for hunters and 35 for the Nez Perce Tribe), or 30% of the population in the state. Because the state’s wolf hunt will be additive to other sources of killing, NRDC expects that, based on 2008 wolf killing levels, the population could be reduced by nearly 600 wolves — over 50% of the state’s wolf population. This could be the first time in American history that an animal will be removed from the endangered species and hunted down to unsustainable population levels.

For a deeper look at the issues, NRDC science, policy, legal, and advocacy experts have posted their thoughts on the hunts online:

** Staff Scientist Sylvia Fallon, whose work was central to the injunction last summer, takes a deep look at the Idaho hunt numbers and their dangerous implications for a sustainable wolf population in the region.

** Louisa Willcox reacts to the hunts from Livingston, MT and points to a number of more reasonable and constructive ways to deal with  wolf conflicts in the region.

** Wildlife Conservation Program Director Andrew Wetzler looks closely at the number of tags likely to be awarded for the hunt and the problems they could lead to when it is time for the shooting to stop.

** Montana wildlife advocate Matt Skoglund appreciates the need for a sustainable hunt, but not until the population is appropriately sized.

** Josh Mogerman looks at some important issues around celebrity wolves, tourism, and a fair hunt brought up by the Idaho Statesman.

Gray wolf by Flickr user deegs used under a Creative Commons license.

The conservation groups are represented by Earthjustice. Joining NRDC in the coalition are 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, Western Watersheds Project, Wildlands Network, and Hells Canyon Preservation Council.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.

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