Environmental groups claim Idaho wolf-trapping laws will harm protected grizzly bears, Canada lynx

Idaho’s governor signed new laws in May that create a permanent wolf-trapping season on private property, get rid of limits on how many wolves a person can kill and authorize private-contractor killing of wolves sponsored by the state.

Courthouse News Service – JARED BROWN / December 6, 2021

A grizzly bear roams an exhibit at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Wash., in 2020. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

(CN) — Several conservation groups filed lawsuit in Idaho Monday seeking to block the state’s new wolf-trapping laws, alleging Endangered Species Act violations because they will lead to injury and death among protected grizzly bears and Canada lynx.

Several conservation groups asked a federal court in Idaho Monday to block the state’s new wolf-trapping laws, which they claim will lead to injury and deaths among federally protected grizzly bears and Canada lynx.

Republican Governor Brad Little approved new rules in May that create a permanent wolf-trapping season on private property, get rid of limits on how many wolves a person can kill and authorize funding for the state to hire private contractor killings of wolves. Night-vision equipment, bait, dogs and motor vehicles are also allowed for use in hunting.

Lawmakers estimated the measures could lead to the killing of 90% of the state’s 1,500 gray wolves and said the state could whittle the number down to 150 before their population could be managed by federal authorities, according to The Associated Press. Hunters and the ranching sector backed the legislation.

The new rules do little to reduce risk of harm to grizzly bear and lynx, the new lawsuit alleges. The conservation groups said five lynx have been reported as trapped in Idaho since the 2011 to 2012 trapping season, including one in a wolf trap in 2014, while two grizzly bears were killed in incidents involving wolf snares in 2020.

“It’s sickening that Idaho has approved what amounts to unregulated hunting and trapping in an effort to wipe out its wolf population,” Center for Biological Diversity senior attorney Andrea Zaccardi said in a statement. “Other animals, like federally protected grizzly bears and lynx, will be injured or die in these cruel traps and snares. The state’s disregard for all of their lives is outrageous and unacceptable.”

The conservation groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club, provided the state a 60-day notice of their plans to file a lawsuit.

Earthjustice filed the 23-page complaint on behalf of the groups asking for a temporary restraining order to stop wolf trapping in grizzly bear and lynx habit during legal proceedings. Wolves are found in about two-thirds of the state.

The lawsuit names Little, the director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and members of the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Commission as defendants.

“Unfortunately, we’ve already seen grizzly bears caught and killed in wolf snares in Idaho. Expansion of wolf baiting, trapping and snaring in grizzly bear habitat will not only decimate the states’ wolf population but will result in more dead grizzly bears,” Bonnie Rice, the Northern Rockies senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club, said in a statement. “Idaho’s grizzly bear population remains small and vulnerable, and policies that threaten its full recovery cannot be allowed to stand.”

Montana also moved to expand wolf hunting earlier this year. Seven grizzly bears have been caught in wolf or coyote traps since 2010 and four lynx have been reported trapped since the 2011 to 2012 trapping season.

Idaho began reintroducing wolves in the mid-1990s and managed its wolf population from 2006 to 2010. Congress passed legislation in 2011 ending wolves’ protected status in Montana, Idaho, eastern Washington, eastern Oregon and north-central Utah and turning population management over to those states.

The Trump administration fully removed federal protections for wolves and the Biden administration has signaled it does not have plans to reinstate them.

“I’m appalled by the state of Idaho’s betrayal of its agreement to manage wolves ‘exactly like we manage black bears and mountain lions,’” Suzanne Asha Stone, a member of the reintroduction team in the 1990s and a director of the International Wildlife Coexistence Network, said in a statement. “Idaho is exterminating wolves not managing them and they don’t care that other species such as lynx and grizzly are also being impacted because of their obsession to persecute wolves.”

Reward in eastern Oregon wolf poisoning case grows to nearly $43,000

The Oregonian – Updated: Dec. 08, 2021, 9:09 a.m. | Published: Dec. 07, 2021, 1:54 p.m.

A wolf pack is captured by a remote camera in Hells Canyon National Recreation Area in northeast Oregon in February 2017. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife AP

By Kale Williams | The Oregonian/OregonLive

Conservation groups are offering a $42,977 reward for information that leads to a conviction after at least eight wolves were poisoned in eastern Oregon earlier this year.

Three groups – Wolves of the Rockies, Trap Free Montana and The 06 Legacy Project – added an additional $10,000 to the existing reward Monday. An additional $6,977 in reward money from the Greater Hells Canyon Council, Humane Society of the United States and private donations was announced Tuesday.

“We were heartbroken to hear of these horrific and inhumane killings, and condemn in the strongest terms this atrocity,” Marc Cooke, president of Wolves of the Rockies, said in a statement, adding that the poisonings were the result of escalating tensions between wolves and ranchers. “But this slaughter did not occur in a vacuum. We hope to see those responsible for the illegal killings brought to justice.”

In early February, Oregon State Police investigators were alerted that a wolf fitted with a tracking collar had stopped moving near Mount Harris, about 10 miles northeast of La Grande in Union County.

They found the entirety of the Catherine Pack, three males and two females, dead along with a dead magpie that was found near the wolves, according to state police. The wolves were sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Lab in Ashland for testing.

About a month later, wildlife officials again contacted state police to report concerns about a collared wolf in the same area of Union County. Another search turned up a dead female wolf along with another dead magpie and a dead skunk. Again, all the animals were sent to the lab for testing.

By April, the toxicology tests confirmed all six wolves had been poisoned.

Two more wolves would be poisoned in the months to come. Later in April, another male wolf, this one from the Five Points Pack, was found dead near the town of Elgin. In July, a young female wolf was found dead northeast of La Grande, state troopers said. That animal had recently dispersed from the Keating Pack.

Testing on both confirmed different types of poison, but investigators believe the young female’s death may be related to the six earlier poisonings.

Tension between wolf advocates and ranchers, whose livestock has sometimes been preyed upon by the canids, has festered in Oregon since the animals began repopulating the state in the early 2000s. Debates on how best to resolve conflict have grown contentious at times.

Six wolves from the Lookout Mountain Pack, in Baker County, were killed by the state earlier this year after repeated attacks on livestock in the area.

Wolves have been under different levels of protection in the state as their population has grown since their return. The latest count, as measured at the end of 2020, put the minimum number of animals in Oregon at 173.

Last year, federal protections for wolves under the Endangered Species Act were rescinded by the Trump administration, though advocates for the animals have sued to have the animal’s protected status reinstated.

Previously, eight conservation groups – the Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands, Defenders of Wildlife, The Humane Society of the United States, Northeast Oregon Ecosystems, Oregon Wild, Predator Defense and WildEarth Guardians – had offered a $26,000 reward for information on the case.

Advocates hope the additional reward money will lead to a prosecution, but Amaroq Weiss, senior wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, said state and federal officials need to be doing more to educate the public about wolves.

“Scientists who study illegal wolf killings conclude that for every poached wolf discovered, there are likely two or three more that will never be found,” Weiss said in a statement. “The state has started to take poaching more seriously, but it’s not enough. People kill wolves because they hate them or fear them, and there’s never been an adequate public-education program in Oregon or any state to combat this misplaced mindset.”

Investigators have asked anyone with information about the poisonings to contact the Oregon State Police using their hotline at 1-800-452-7888 or by email at TIP@state.or.us referencing case number #SP21-033033.

— Kale Williams; kwilliams@oregonian.com; 503-294-4048; @sfkale

Time for change!

Impactful short video – Please watch!

The video concisely reflects the relationships we have had with wolves and brings you current to the wolf management plans and actions being taken in some states that should concern you. Wolves, as well as other predators, are integral to healthy ecosystems. As we face many environmental challenges, we need to acknowledge that nature has a balance, one that we need to respect and learn to work with versus against.

Colorado has first litter of gray wolf pups in 80 years

“Colorado is now home to our first wolf litter since the 1940s,” said Gov. Jared Polis (D).

ByJenna Romaine | June 10, 2021

(AB Photography/iStock)

Story at a glance

  • Colorado has reported its first gray wolf pups in 80 years.
  • A litter of at least three wolf pups along with their parents were spotted last weekend by both a state biologist and a district wildlife manager.
  • Last year, Colorado voters approved a measure requiring the state to reintroduce gray wolves to public lands by the end of 2023.

Colorado has reported its first gray wolf pups in 80 years, state wildlife officials announced on Wednesday.

A litter of at least three pups along with their parents were spotted last weekend by both a state biologist and a district wildlife manager. Wolf litters tend to contain between four to six pups, so it remains possible there could be more.

“Colorado is now home to our first wolf litter since the 1940s. We welcome this historic den and the new wolf family to Colorado,” said Gov. Jared Polis (D).

Last year, Colorado voters approved a measure requiring the state to reintroduce gray wolves to public lands by the end of 2023.

“With voter passage last year of the initiative to require re-introduction of the wolf by the end of 2023, these pups will have plenty of potential mates when they grow up to start their own families,” said Polis. 

In the 1940s, Colorado’s gray wolves were eradicated via hunting, trapping and poisoning, some for game hunting and some by angry residents losing livestock to the wolves, which viewed them as prey.

Around the time Colorado approved the reintroduction of the gray wolf, President Trump’s U.S. Department of the Interior removed it from protection under the Endangered Species Act, garnering widespread condemnation from wildlife advocates.

“The Trump administration shut the door to wolf recovery, even as the science shows that wolves are too imperiled and ecologically important to abandon,” Colette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement at the time. “We’re taking the fight to the courts, and I’m confident we can restore the Endangered Species Act’s lifesaving protections for gray wolves across the nation.” 

Despite their removal, gray wolves remain protected in Colorado on a state level. The hunting of gray wolves is illegal and punishable by fines, loss of one’s hunting license, and jail time. 

As to not jeopardize the survival of the state’s new wolf residents, wildlife workers are monitoring the progress from afar.

“We are continuing to actively monitor this den site while exercising extreme caution so as not to inadvertently jeopardize the potential survival of these pups,” said Libbie Miller, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologist. “Our hope is that we will eventually have photos to document this momentous occasion in Colorado’s incredible and diverse wildlife history, but not bothering them remains a paramount concern.”

US wildlife managers tout wolf cross-fostering efforts

U.S. wildlife managers say they have placed a record 22 captive-born Mexican gray wolf pups into dens in the wild to be raised by surrogate packs

By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN Associated PressJune 7, 2021, 12:20 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A record 22 captive-born Mexican gray wolf pups have been placed into dens in the wild in the southwestern U.S. to be raised by surrogate packs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Monday.

The agency called this year’s cross-fostering season a success, saying the endangered predators that have been part of the fostering program over the last six years have helped to boost genetic diversity among the wild population in New Mexico and Arizona.

Officials said that over the last two months, nine pups were fostered into three different packs in eastern Arizona and 13 were placed with five packs in western New Mexico. Last year, 20 pups were placed into dens in the wild.

Jim deVos, the Mexican wolf coordinator with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, said in a statement that the fostering program is built on partnerships with private organizations that are part of a nationwide captive breeding effort.

The captive-born pups came from litters at facilities in New Mexico, Texas and Missouri.

“Without this important partnership, genetic recovery would be essentially impossible,” he said. “Importantly, we are now seeing Mexican wolves that have been fostered producing litters themselves.”

Cross-fostering involves placing pups less than 14 days old from captive breeding populations into wild dens with similarly aged pups to be raised as wild wolves. Officials said cross-fostered pups have the same survival rate — about 50% — as wild-born pups in their first year of life.

According to the wolf recovery team, at least 12 of the wolves fostered over the years are still alive and surviving in the wild. Seven of these wolves have reached breeding age and four have subsequently produced pups in the wild.

Since pups are too young to mark when fostered, officials said only those that are recaptured can be confirmed as being alive, so it’s likely more have survived.

Some environmentalists questioned those numbers and said cross-fostering doesn’t go far enough to put the species on track for recovery. The Center for Biological Diversity is among those pushing for wildlife managers to release breeding pairs along with their pups as bonded family packs.

Michael Robinson with the Center for Biological Diversity suggested that captive-born, well-bonded packs released into the wild have a lower mortality and disappearance rate than cross-fostered pups. He also raised concerns about illegal killings, noting that the fate of many of the 50 pups placed into wild dens between 2016 and 2020 is unknown.

“Aside from whatever is ailing cross-fostered pups in the short term, (the Fish and Wildlife Service’s) failure to address illegal killing casts a pall on genetic conservation of released wolves no matter what manner of release is employed,” Robinson said in an email.

The most recent survey of Mexican wolves determined there were at least 186 of the animals spread between New Mexico and Arizona. Over the last five years, the wild population has nearly doubled.

Meanwhile, ranchers in the recovery area have said they are continuing to see more livestock killed by the wolves despite efforts to scare the animals away. They have been vocal with their opposition to more wolf releases, including one planned at Ted Turner’s ranch in southwestern New Mexico.

The Future of Wolves in the American West

CounterPunch.org – Lindsay Larris – March 24, 2021

Gray wolf. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

A series of recent events in multiple states makes far too clear that gray wolves need our help. Despite abundant scientific data indicating that this keystone species remains largely absent from much of its historic range in the American West, gray wolves were removed from the list of species protected under the Endangered Species Act in January. In place of federal ESA protection, states have already begun enacting new policies and, with them, swift and deeply disturbing reminders of how vulnerable gray wolves remain.

In Wisconsin, just weeks after gray wolves were delisted from the ESA, an ill-conceived hunt during the wolves’ mating season left 216 gray wolves dead — approximately 20% of the entire wolf population in the state — during a three-day slaughter.

Meanwhile, in Montana, a state in which wolves lost ESA protections in 2011, not by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but by an undemocratic congressional rider, the federal delisting emboldened politicians to up unscientific efforts to eliminate wolves from the landscape. In the past month, the Montana Senate passed a bill allowing for private bounties for dead wolves and the Montana House passed bills expanding the wolf trapping season and allowing snares in an effort to further decimate wolves.

The traps and snares, which often prolong an animal’s death, are indiscriminate and dangerous not only to wolves but also to non-target species. In a recent six-year period in Montana, for example, at least 350 non-target animals, ranging from mountain lions to companion animals, were caught in traps. Montana’s pending laws to incentivize and further enable wolf killing are not simply inhumane, they severely threaten to undo gray wolf recovery efforts and destabilize ecosystems.

These recent activities follow on the heels of a similarly unsettling example of failed state-level wolf management in Idaho, where wolves have also been delisted since 2011. There, over a recent 12-month period, trappers, hunters, and state and federal agencies killed an astounding 570 wolves, including at least 35 wolf pups as young as four weeks old.

Taken together, the examples of Idaho, Montana, and Wisconsin give us all the evidence we need that state-led “management” does not ensure the protection and recovery of gray wolves.

This horrifying slaughter of wolves in just a few states is why WildEarth Guardians has joined a broad coalition to challenge the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to delist wolves in court. Wolves have not recovered in the American West and the decision to delist them goes against the intent of the ESA, which not only mandates the federal government to forestall the extermination of gray wolves but also, crucially, to promote their full recovery across their entire historic range.

To let the work of gray wolf recovery go unfinished would be a tragedy. Being listed under the ESA has allowed gray wolves to begin to rebound in the upper Great Lakes region, yet their recovery there does nothing for the populations of gray wolves throughout the West, where the animals remain largely absent or underpopulated in their historic range. For example, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado have had a few wolf sightings over the past three years, but wolves remain essentially absent from their historical habitat in these states.

The example of success in the upper Great Lakes region should not be used to dismantle wolf protections, but rather to illustrate the continued need for those protections throughout the country where wolf populations remain extremely vulnerable. Only ongoing federal protections, based on scientific data absent from politics and fearmongering, will guarantee gray wolves a continued and healthy future in this country.

Lindsay Larris is the Wildlife Program Director for WildEarth Guardians.