Interior secretary calls for bounty on wolves
by May Day
WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 8, 2011 — Calling wolf populations out of control in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, Secretary of the Interior Dan D. Lyons said today the federal government should start paying bounties to hunters and ranchers who shoot wolves.
"Skyrocketing numbers of wolves are threatening to annihilate once-healthy populations of elk, moose and wild sheep in parts of the West," he said at a press conference at the Department of Interior office. "Now we're second-guessing our decision to release Canadian wolves into the Yellowstone ecosystem.
"We knew wolves would eat domestic sheep and cattle, but we had no idea they would wreak so much havoc on moose, elk and bighorn sheep herds."
The director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Rod N. Rhiel, was on hand to support the secretary.
"So many moose have been killed by wolves that we have been forced to end moose hunting in several big game management units," Rhiel said. "In the Jackson Hole area we issued 490 moose hunting permits in 1990, and last year we were down to 25. That's a 95 percent decline, and I think it's more than coincidence that grizzlies and wolves have moved big time into the area in the past few years.
Rhiel said his department supports Lyons' call for a wolf bounty.
Wyoming State Senate President Tom A. Hawk has proposed a state law that requires any person who has a firearm in the field to shoot any wolf sighted.
State Attorney General Gay M. Whordan said she is ready to prosecute violators.
"If a hunter or a rancher misses a wolf more than two or three times," she said, "we'll take that as prima facie evidence that he is intentionally violating the law and letting a wolf continue harming our game animal populations. The fine is $1,000 and 48 hours in jail."
Howell Atta Moone, director of the Montana Department of Parks, Fish and Wildlife, said his agency has reduced antlerless elk permits by more than 90 percent in the Yellowstone area because there is no longer a need for hunters to trim big game herds.
"We had to decide years ago whether we would rather have hunters or wolves kill and eat elk," he said. "After numerous public hearings at which ranchers, sportsmen and other members of the public overwhelming objected to introducing wolves, we decided it would be in the best interest of our state to bring in wolves and have them eat any excess elk. We had no idea that wolves would continue eating game animals once they consumed the excess."
Montana Hotel Association Director M.T. Ruhms said his members overwhelming supported the idea of bringing wolves back to the Yellowstone area after almost a century of absence, but restoring wolf populations has not resulted in increased tourism as proponents of the program had promised.
"All of our member motels and hotels in southwestern Montana would fill up every winter with hunters who had tags to hunt antlerless elk," Ruhms said. "Now with hardly any elk to hunt all we have left are empty rooms. The wolves eat all the extra elk now and then some, and hardly anybody is booking a hotel room on a wolf sighting trip. Our members have lost millions in bookings that they used to depend on to get them through the winter. Combine that with the federal government's drastic cuts on snowmobiling in Yellowstone, and wolves have been a disaster on our economy."
Several national wildlife and conservation groups have reversed their positions on wolves, including the Bambi and Cuddly (B&C) Club, the National Wildlife Federation, the National Humane Society and the World Wildlife Fund.
B&C Club President Fawn Buck said wolves have eradicated the results of her organization's 30-year effort to increase survival rates of juvenile deer and elk.
"We went along with the program to bring viable numbers of wolves back to the Rocky Mountain West," she said. "But we were told that wolves would be better than hunters and that having wolves would eliminate the need for hunters. These wolves are a lot worse than we thought. Not only do they eat the old and the weak, but they also eat the young. At least sport hunters didn't kill fawns. These wolves are not as cuddly as we thought they would be."
Meanwhile, some organizations want more wolves.
Greenpeace Public Relations Director Anita Czech said the success of the wolf program has helped her group raise millions in funds.
"People in New York City, Los Angeles and other places where educated and sophisticated people live love wolves," she said, "and they will send us a check to ensure that we get more wolves. Wolves have helped our bottom line even more than our ad campaign to convince people that global warming is drowning polar bears."
The League of Independent Environmental Specialists (LIES) said the federal government has "gone above and beyond the call of duty" by allowing wolf numbers to build far past the original goal of 33 breeding pairs.
"Things are going so well that we have about 2,000 animals now," said LIES President Bea Esser. "Soon we expect to have 7,000 wolves. Our fondest dream is to have more wolves than wild sheep, mountain goats and Shiras moose combined."
Esser said her group originally supported the wolf program as a way to end cattle grazing in the West.
"This all used to be wolf country," she said, waving her right hand across the vista from her front porch in Livingston, Montana. "Sheep and cows don't belong here. People don't belong here except for Indians. We're overjoyed that every year more and more ranchers are throwing in the towel.
"I blame all the non-vegans in this country for eating meat and creating a demand for dead cows. If people would do what Mother Nature intended and confine their diets to fruits and veggies, there would be no cattle in America. The wolf reintroduction program has greatly aided our efforts to reduce the supply of addictive meat in our country, but we won't be able to do anything about the war on meat until we cut off the demand. I urge people everywhere to just say no."
Defenders of Wildlife Director Sal A. Mander said his organization will file suit against the Department of Interior if a bounty is placed on wolves.
"Wolves have just as much right to live as any other organism in the United States," he said. "We consider our mission to protect wolves just as important as our efforts to prevent the wanton killing of mosquitoes, houseflies and cockroaches by farmers, landlords and immoral pest control corporations.
"We pledge to allocate any resources at our disposal to prevent the killing of any organism for any purpose. To help our cause, please send your donations to www.lifesavers.org."
Wolf Society President Kay Nyne said her organization is dedicated to restoring wolves across their entire range, including California, New York and every state but Hawaii.
"The biggest problem wolves have had is the overpopulation of humans," she said. "Therefore, we will continue to provide half of every dollar raised by the Wolf Society to efforts to reduce human populations. Not only will we continue to support and encourage human abortion as well as involuntary sterilization of breeding-age humans, but we also oppose the introduction of any medical procedure or pharmacological product that could extend the lives of the wolves' most dangerous predator, homo sapiens. Wolves cannot thrive in America until predation and habitat displacement by humans is brought under control."
Nyne said that as wolves reduce numbers of prey animals, they must be taught to include other forms of life into their diet. She said her group has begun a pilot program that is intended to accoomplish that purpose.
"We have caught 34 wolves and have begun feeding them a strictly regimented diet of rodents, cadavers and road kill," she said. "When these wolves are released, they then teach members of their packs how to survive on alternate food sources.
"A wolf recently ate a lady in Alaska, and so we know that our efforts to acclimate wolves to eating mice, chickens, rats and humans can succeed."
Climate change, not skyrocketing predator numbers, are to blame for plummeting game populations, according to Ed "Big Gun" Bangs, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who heads the federal wolf recovery program.
"People need to drive hybrids and stop barbecuing hamburgers," he said from his house in Moose, Wyoming, where a record winter has kept him snowbound since New Year's. "We're putting too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which allows heat from the sun in but won't let it out. Nobody knows how the CO2 knows which direction the heat is trying to go, but it's just killing off our moose."
Bangs said recent evidence indicates that CO2 might have an opposite effect in the winter, when it prevents heat from coming to the earth.
"Moose don't store fat," he said, "so they can't stay warm if the winters are two degrees colder than normal. Wolves don't eat moose unless they're old or weakened from human-caused climate disruption."
Vin Isson, president of the Northwest Hunters Association, disputes Bangs' theory.
"If global warming is a problem, then why does Utah, which is warmer than Wyoming and Montana, have healthy moose herds," he asked. "And if global cooling is a problem, why do moose do well in Alaska whenever the state is allowed to control wolves?"
Meanwhile, the U.S. Cattlemens Association has pledged funds to pay for wolf bounties.
"Every time you buy a hamburger at McDonald's or Burger King," USCA President Tebo Naday said, "a nickel will go into the wolf bounty program. Members of our organization already have been cooperating in behind-the-scenes efforts to control wolf numbers, and now it's time to involve the entire country.
"I can't say how well our 'Shoot, Dig and Shut Up' program has worked, or I would have to shoot you."
Hunting personality Ted Nugent, who originally gained fame as a rock guitar player, said he looks forward to positive results from the wolf bounty program.
"I used to love to hear elk bugle," the Motor City Madman said, "but they don't anymore because their calls attract wolves. I would much rather hear elk than wolves. The big dogs make fine fur coats, but they're not much to eat, let me tell you."
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wolf specialist Lowe I. Cue said there are fewer wolves in the West than biologists realize and said he is opposed to a wolf bounty.
"We used to have a pretty good idea of how many wolves live where the buffalo and antelope used to roam," he said, "but after ranchers started shooting radio-collared wolves and putting the collars on domestic range sheep, our population estimates got all screwed up. For a long time some of our biologists thought they were seeing wolves in sheep's clothing."
Quote of the Day
"Crying wolf is a real danger." — David Attenborough