Federal court wolf ruling – now what?   Leave a comment

From:  Wadena Pioneer Journal

Jan. 02, 2015 by Erik Osberg

Gray wolves are now protected under the Endangered Species Act.

On Dec. 19, a federal judge ruled to reinstate Endangered Species Act protection for gray wolves in the Upper Midwest, essentially ending the wolf hunt in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association said they are “deeply discouraged at the recent ruling. Our position has been and continues to be in support of the Minnesota DNR‘s management of the wolf population based on factual science though hunting and trapping. We will be watching the courts and advocating for a reversal of this decision.”

Conversely, Howling For Wolves Founder and President Dr. Maureen Hackett called the ruling “exciting news for the survival of the gray wolf population, which is a vital part of our ecology. We’re glad the reckless and unnecessary wolf hunt in Minnesota is over this year, and hope smart non-lethal wolf management strategies will be implemented in the future.”

So who’s right? And where do we go from here? I was fortunate enough to be part of a conference call that included some of the world’s top wolf experts. Including: Dr. L. David Mech, senior research scientist, U.S. Department of the Interior, author and vice chair of the International Wolf Center, retired Wisconsin DNR wolf biologist Dick Thiel and Mike Phillips, executive director of the Turner Endangered Species Fund and project leader for wolf restoration in Yellowstone National Park.

The panel stopped short of saying whether the ban was a good or bad thing, but each offered what they feared would happen and what they felt should happen. The general consensus was that the gray wolf population in in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan is healthy. They cited numbers suggesting the population in these three states is above the levels that were to be achieved in the restoration process. However, Mike Phillips said he believes the court ruled as they did is because when one looks at the entire lower 48 states, the gray wolf only “inhabits 15 percent of it’s historical range,” or to put it another way, “the gray wolf is absent from 85 percent of it’s historical range.” But is it realistic to think the wolf population can be restored to its “historical range?” Dick Thiel pointed out that if we were to try to restore the Bison population to its “historical range” there would be Bison in our wheat fields. It was suggested that the goal for the wolf population management should be that they inhabit a “significant portion of range where habitat is suitable.”

The panel all expressed a concern for an increase in the illegal taking of wolves because of the ruling. They went on to say they believe that is the last thing hunters would want to do.

Perhaps the most unfortunate part in this saga is the fact that the whole situation seems to be a series of bureaucratic semantics and unreasonable logic. And there is plenty of blame to go around. Phillips pointed out that on page 95 of the official ruling the Judge cited a lack of U.S. Fish and Wildlife due diligence. The panel all agreed they hoped for a reasonable coordinated national solution.

Caught in the middle of all of this are people like Matthew Breuer of North Country Guide Service and Promotions. Matt makes his living in the great Northwoods and says he sees the impact of wolves all around him. According to Breuer: “The wolf population in Minnesota is getting borderline out of control. During the late portion of the hunting and trapping season for timberwolves the season ended abruptly due to people doing so well harvesting them. That alone should tell us that the population is beyond the DNR’s target number of wolves in the state. They are a beautiful and majestic creature, but people need to keep the harsh reality in mind… wolves are predators, and they destroy deer and moose populations when not kept in check. Not to mention that they will readily kill a hunting dog if they cross paths. I’ve seen wolves in the wild, I’ve watched them hunt, I’ve come across dozens of wolf kills. People who have only seen wolves on TV or the internet should not seal the fate of those who live amongst them.”

Outdoor Report’s Erik Osberg and Wes Gall contributed to this story.

 

 

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