December 5, 2014

Due to the Thanksgiving holiday last week, today we have two weeks’ worth of wolf news to share!

Have you Heard? Gray Wolf Confirmed in the Grand Canyon! Before Thanksgiving, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) confirmed that the wolf-like animal seen near the entrance to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon on the Kaibab plateau earlier this month is in fact a gray wolf! After conducting DNA analysis on samples of scat, wildlife biologists are definitive in their assessment that this is a female gray wolf from the Northern Rockies, who traveled over 450 miles to her new home. While gray wolves currently have federal protection under the Endangered Species Act along major dispersal routes between the northern and southern Rockies and the Grand Canyon ecoregion, this will change if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalizes its national delisting rule for gray wolves.

Yellowstone wolves, © Doug McLaughlin

Idaho’s Predator Derby Permit Withdrawn on BLM Lands: After significant public opposition and in the face of legal challenges from Defenders of Wildlife and other conservation organizations, last week the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) withdrew its permit to allow an annual commercial “predator derby” to take place on millions of acres of public lands in Idaho, beginning this January. However, despite this victory, the vehement anti-wolf group behind this proposed predator derby will stop at nothing to get their killing contest approved. Now, the group is planning to hold the predator derby on U.S. Forest Service land, specifically the Salmon-Challis National Forest just outside of Salmon, Idaho. So this week, we submitted a letter to the U.S. Forest Service (Forest Service) requesting the agency prohibit the derby from occurring on lands the agency manages. In stark contrast to BLM, the Forest Service has not sought public comment or evaluated the adverse impacts this proposed predator derby would cause. Instead, on August 19 the Forest Service notified the derby proponents by letter that no permit was needed to hold the proposed derby within Salmon-Challis National Forest! So far, we’ve received no response from the Forest Service, but well keep you informed here when we have any news.

Mexican Gray Wolves Get a Tough Break from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a final environmental impact statement for a new rule that will change the management of Mexican gray wolves. Although the new rule would allow wolves to be released in new areas of Arizona and New Mexico, and would give the wolves more room to roam, it would also make true recovery of these rare wolves impossible. Parts of the new rule would keep the wolves out of important habitats, cap the population at an artificially low level and allow more killing of the critically endangered animals. The USFWS has even said it may kill wolves that exceed the population cap. There are currently only 83 Mexican gray wolves in the wild in the southwest United States, and this rule threatens to prevent recovery for years to come. In response, Eva Sargent, Director of Southwest Programs said: “The Service’s latest decision regarding the Mexican gray wolf takes one step forward and two steps back and will ultimately hinder the recovery of the imperiled lobos.” To move forward, this imperiled population of wolves not only needs more breeding pairs and more room, they desperately need an updated science-based recovery plan, and at least two additional core populations established in suitable habitat. This new rule drives us farther away from realizing these goals.

Mexican gray wolf, © AZGFD

New Study Shows That Killing Wolves Doesn’t Reduce Wolf-Livestock Conflict, It Increases It: Even though more sustainable options exist for managing conflicts between wolves and livestock, in many places the prevailing strategy is still to kill wolves that get into trouble. But after a new analysis surfaced this week finding that lethal control doesn’t actually reduce wolf-livestock conflict, will we see a change? A scientist out of Washington State University examined 25 years of data and found that when wolves are killed, the chance that livestock will be killed by wolves actually rises. This research further supports our longstanding argument that non- lethal tools — instead of lethal control — is a better way to manage wolves and livestock together to ensure peaceful coexistence.

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