WASHINGTON, D.C. – A growing coalition of wildlife experts is calling on the Biden administration to provide emergency protections for gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains.
Four hundred scientists signed a July 1 letter to President Joe Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland seeking an executive order blocking the efforts of state officials in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming to largely eradicate gray wolves from their landscapes, according to Cynthia Hoffman, a spokesperson for the International Wildlife Coexistence Network (IWCN).
“We ask you to act now,” their letter states, urging federal officials to “stand with scientists and the American people who favor wolf conservation; reinforce the efforts of indigenous peoples to protect our precious wildlife; and implement a vision where the diversity and abundance of life on Earth are secure.”
Hoffman says that notable naturalists who have added their signatures to the IWCN letter include Jane Goodall, George Shaller, Thomas Lovejoy, Wayne Melquist, Marcie Carter and Roy Heberger.
The scientists’ appeal came in response to the implementation of new laws creating an open season on wolves in Idaho starting July 1.
After being exterminated in the early 20th Century, wolves were reintroduced into Idaho in 1995.
Although the animals were initially protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, the move was vocally opposed by the statewide livestock industry. At their urging, state officials developed a wildlife management plan for wolves in 2011 that set an “ideal” population level for wolves at 15 packs of 10 animals each.
The wolf population of Idaho is now estimated to 1,500 animals and recent legislation signed by Gov. Brad Little has allocated $600,000 to reduce that population by 90 percent.
Idaho lawmakers say that reducing the state’s wolf population to 150 animals will allow the species to survive without creating conflicts with ranchers and hunters.
But wildlife experts counter that the wolves must be allowed to return to their natural historic range before their population can be considered sustainable.
Here in Utah, gray wolves are still considered endangered in much of the state and sightings of the predators are rare. Only a handful of wolves have been seen in Utah in the past two decades, but Fish and Game officials reported a probable wolf-kill of some livestock in Rich County in 2020.
The situation is different in other western states, however. Montana has enacted laws similar to those in Idaho, with the goal of reducing its wolf population by 85 percent. Wyoming is also allowing wolves to be hunted across most of the state.
The IWCN protests those eradication efforts – which include use of bounties, traps, snares, night raids and dog packs – as inhumane.
The scientists’ July 1 letter to Biden condemns the new state-sponsored wolf control laws as a major setback for wildlife recovery in North America.
Those laws, they wrote, are “misinformed and short-sighted policies that lack scientific credibility and disregard successful, non-lethal migration measures to promote human-wolf coexistence.”
The scientists also argued that federal intervention in this case is justified because the policies of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming “run counter to modern-day wildlife management practices and to the will of much of the American people who value wolves.”
The July 1 letter concludes with an appeal to Biden and Haaland to re-list the Northern Rockies wolf population under the Endangered Species Act and to consider long-term conservation measures for bison, grizzly bears and wolves.
The International Wildlife Coexistence Network is based in Garden City, ID. Hoffman says the organization provides expert interdisciplinary assistance, training, collaboration and shared research to enable communities to coexist with wildlife.