Just the Facts

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Earl Stahl, Ph.D.

If you think that the removal of wolves from federal protection along with the wolf hunts that are now in place in the Northern Rockies and the Upper Midwest have discouraged the wolf advocates, think again. The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) is still on the prowl, in a manner of speaking.
In a fund-raising email dated August 28, 2013, the CBD decries the wolf hunts in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. The CBD claims that wolves are on the verge of extinction and that absence of federal protection will prevent wolves from expanding into Colorado, California, and states in the Northeast. Here is a comparison of CBD’s assertions to the facts:

CBD: “ Idaho allows wolf hunting year round.”

Fact: Year round wolf hunting in Idaho is restricted to private lands in a limited number of hunting units.

CBD: “ Montana killed off 4 per cent of its wolves and plans to extend the wolf-killing season through the end of March when wolves will be pregnant.”

Fact: Montana’s first wolf season in 2009 set a harvest quota at 75 wolves, less than 2 per cent of the population (most recent data available). Furthermore, Montana’s 2013-14 rifle season for wolf hunts ended on March 15, not the end of March. It should also be noted that wolf experts David Mech and Jim Beers agree that a reduction in wolf population requires removing 45-70% of the wolves for 5-7 years followed by a 30% or more reduction per year for each following year.

CBD: “ In Wyoming killing wolf pups in their dens, a barbaric practice once used widely during wolf-eradication campaigns across the country, is perfectly legal.”

Fact: Wyoming has classified wolves as predators, giving them the same status as coyotes and foxes. This does not apply to the wolf recovery area that includes Yellowstone National Park and adjacent national forests. Wolf hunting permits are restricted in the recovery area and hunting is closed when the quota has been met. Theoretically, wolves could be killed in their dens outside of the recovery area. However, the Wyoming Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks reports that there are very few denning wolves outside of the recovery area.

CBD: “ In other states – Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan – it’s the same tragic story.”

Fact: Wisconsin held its first wolf hunting and trapping season in 2012. About 1,200 permits were issued with a success ratio of 4 per cent. Hunting and trapping permits for the 2013 season were set at 1,255. With a wolf population between 850-1,200, a modest success rate will not be a tragedy.
Minnesota is reducing its wolf harvest for 2013. In its first season in 2012, 413 wolves were killed out of an estimated population of over 3,000, However, population surveys have shown a 25 per cent decrease in wolf numbers since 2012. It is also worth noting that while camping on Lake Winnibigoshish, a 16-year-old male was attacked and injured by a wolf. The attack took place on August 24, 2013, resulting in head injuries that required 17 staples to close. The wolf weighed 75 pounds and was trapped and killed two days later.

Michigan’s first wolf hunt will be held in 2013 with a harvest goal of 43 wolves. With Michigan’s wolf population over 700, that harvest goal will hardly be a tragedy.

CBD: “ If wolves’ federal protection is not reinstated, the door will be slammed on any chance for wolves to return to places like Colorado, the Northeast, and California” (note: minimal editing of CBD’s statement for clarification).

Fact: Wolves have migrated into Colorado and California as well as Oregon, Washington, and Utah.
The Eastern timber wolf (Canis luopus lyacon) has evolved, in states like New York and Pennsylvania as well as the Maritime Provinces, into a coy-wolf as a result of cross-breeding. Cross-breeding has also taken place with the Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) in the Southwest. This has sparked a debate in the scientific community about what constitutes a pure wolf species. Interestingly, Mexican wolves bred in captivity for release in the wild were determined to be wolf-dog hybrids.
CBD’s fund-raising email is a thinly veiled attempt to use the wolf as its cash cow. If the email didn’t contain distorted assertions, it would be laughable. Or pathetic. Or both.