Stripped of Protection, Wolves Face 'Second Extermination' in US

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by
Common Dreams

Stripped of Protection, Wolves Face 'Second Extermination' in US

Outrage follows photos of tortured wolf and trend of plummeting populations

by
Common Dreams staff

Photo from trapperman.com posting.

Wildlife advocates are outraged by photos that show a captured wolf being tortured by a Forest Service employee in Idaho. The Center for Biological Diversity sent letters to both the Forest Service and Idaho Attorney General, Lawrence Wasden, today requesting investigations into the actions of Josh Bransford, who posted photos of a wolf he had trapped in northern Idaho that had been maliciously and non-fatally shot by people who spotted the animal from a nearby road.

The specific incident highlights only the most heinous kind of threat wild wolves face since they were removed from the Endangered Species list last year.  Across the western states, wolf populations have plummeted since losing federal protection as hunters have aggressively targeted the species.

“A year ago, that wolf was protected as a member of an endangered species, but last month he was trapped, tortured and killed thanks to an underhanded congressional rider that’s also responsible for the deaths of hundreds of other wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains,” said the Center’s Michael Robinson. “A lack of respect for the balance of nature is leading to a war on wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains.”

Animal rights activists, in a recent Reuters report, said they are sickened at the online flurry of pictures depicting wolf kills, and alarmed by comments suggesting a growing desire to shoot, trap and snare wolves.

"Roughly $40 million has been spent on wolf recovery, and now we are witnessing the second extermination of wolves in the West," Wendy Keefover, director of carnivore protection for WildEarth Guardians, told Reuters.

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Reuters reports: Dead wolf photos stir tensions in West

Escalating rancor between hunters and animal rights activists on social media and websites centers on pictures of wolves killed or about to be killed. Many have text celebrating the fact that Western states are allowing more killing of the predators.

Commenting on a Facebook-posted image of two wolves strangled to death by cable snares, an individual who identified himself as Shane Miller wrote last month, "Very nice!! Don't stop now, you're just getting started!"

A person going by the name Matthew Brown posted the message, "Nice, one down and a BUNCH to go!" in response to a Facebook image of a single wolf choked to death in a snare.

Such pictures and commentary have intensified online arguments over the ethics of hunting and trapping wolves. The debate took a threatening turn this week with an anonymous email warning that animal rights advocates will "be the target next."[...]

In Idaho and Montana, hundreds of the animals have been killed — mostly through hunting — less than a year after being removed from the U.S. endangered species list.

Stripping the wolves of federal protection last spring opened the animals to state wildlife management, including newly licensed hunting and trapping designed to reduce their numbers from levels the states deemed too high.

Since the de-listing last May, Idaho has cut its wolf population by about 40 per cent, from roughly 1,000 to about 600 or fewer. Some 260 wolves have been killed in Montana, more than a third of its population, leaving an estimated 650 remaining.

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Center for Biological Diversity: Trapped Idaho Wolf Tortured Before Killing

The Center for Biological Diversity sent letters to both the Forest Service and Idaho Attorney General, Lawrence Wasden, today requesting investigations into the actions of a Forest Service employee, Josh Bransford, who posted photos of a wolf he had trapped in northern Idaho that had been maliciously and non-fatally shot by people who spotted the animal from a nearby road.

“A year ago, that wolf was protected as a member of an endangered species, but last month he was trapped, tortured and killed thanks to an underhanded congressional rider that’s also responsible for the deaths of hundreds of other wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains,” said the Center’s Michael Robinson. “A lack of respect for the balance of nature is leading to a war on wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains.”

The posting, on trapperman.com, shows the Forest Service employee smiling in front of a still-living wolf surrounded by snow that is bloody from the animal’s gunshot wounds. Idaho state law makes it a crime for a person who “causes or procures any animal to be cruelly treated, or who, having the charge or custody of any animal either as owner or otherwise, subjects any animal to cruelty.” It also requires that “destruction of animals for population control” (the supposed reason for wolf trapping) be carried out humanely. Making it possible for potshots to be taken at a captive animal — and photographing the results — before ending the wolf’s suffering appears to violate this law, as well as common decency.

“These photos make plain that the trapping and hunting of wolves being allowed by the state of Idaho are less ‘wildlife-management techniques’ than scapegoating of wolves,” said Robinson. “This egregious torture of a wolf needs to be investigated by Idaho’s attorney general and the Forest Service, and Josh Bransford should be fined and dismissed from his position.”

Removal of Endangered Species Act protection for the wolf was premised on the fact that state game agencies could be counted on to manage wolves. Idaho has since abandoned the targets of its state plan and instead said it will seek to reduce the population from roughly 1,000 wolves to as low as 150 wolves, effectively creating an open season on the species. So far, 375 wolves have been reported killed in Idaho and 166 in Montana. Idaho’s wolf hunt remains open in portions of the state. 

“The disturbing photos of this animal’s needlessly painful death are a symbol of the loss of hundreds of wolves in Idaho and Montana and the unraveling of their ecosystems as a consequence,” said Robinson. “Last year’s wolf-delisting rider was premised on trusting the states to treat wolves like other wildlife. But that trust was clearly misplaced by Congress. Without the safety net of the Endangered Species Act, Idaho’s very clearly persecuting wolves, not ‘managing’ them. It’s brutal and it has to stop.”

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Background from Reuters:

Once common across most of North America, wolves were hunted, trapped and poisoned to near extinction in the lower 48 states by the 1940s under a government-sponsored program.

Decades later, biologists recognized that wolves had an essential role as a predator in mountain ecosystems, leading to protection of the animal under the Endangered Species Act.

Wolves were reintroduced in the mid-1990s over the vehement objections of ranchers and sportsmen, who see the animals as a threat to livestock and big-game animals such as elk and deer.

Environmentalists say the impact of wolves on cattle herds and wildlife is overstated and that the recent removal of federal safeguards could push the wolf back to the brink.

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