Let slip the dogs of war: Wolf slaughter is afoot

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Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

(NOTE: See my updates scattered throughout the text & comment section)

Cry “Havoc!” There will be blood…and it will be wolf blood.

Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG) has hired a killer to slaughter two wolf packs within the federally-protected Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. This is congressionally-designated, captital-W wilderness, certainly the one place nature should be allowed to express itself without manipulation by and for humans. Said wolf biologist and PBS filmmaker (“River of No Return”) Isaac Babcock,

…when Fish and Game hires a bounty hunter to go live in designated wilderness in a Forest Service cabin with the goal of eliminating entire wolf packs — something seems terribly wrong with that.” ~ Idaho Statesman: “Idaho Fish and Game turns to hired hunter

Why must two wilderness wolf packs die? Continue reading

Wolves, Laws and Parochialism

David Cassuto

I would like to say a few more words about the so-called “State Sovereignty Wildlife Management Act and its stated intent to strip wolves of all Endangered Species Act protections.  While I have no reason to assume this bill will pass (are you listening, Congress?), the fact that officials elected to national office could propose such a thing underscores much of what’s wrong with, well, with everything.

As an initial matter, wolves pose little threat to people.  In the 230+ year history of the United States, the number of wolf attacks can probably be counted on one person’s fingers and toes.  The number of fatal attacks is far fewer.  Wolves do, however, sometimes eat livestock.  Since their reintroduction (emphasis on re– introduction because they used to live there until we exterminated them) into the Northern Rockies, ranchers have raised a royal ruckus because they occasionally lose animals to wolves.  Rather than treat this as a cost of doing business, ranchers argue that the wolves’ existence constitutes an unwelcome intrusion into the natural order of things.  This despite the fact that the wolves used to inhabit the region in far greater numbers than the 1700 or so that currently exist there and that ranching (and the factory farming that it supports) has caused widespread damage to the region’s ecosystem.           Continue reading

Bill Would Strip Wolves of ESA Protection — Forever

Apparently still traumatized by their experiences reading Little Red Riding Hood as children, 8 members of Congress  have introduced a bill called the State Sovereignty Wildlife Management Act.  The sole purpose of HR 6485 is to render any listing of wolves as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act legally irrelevant.

You can’t  make this stuff up.

Read an informative post here.

Research Hunts & Conservation Hunts: New Ways to Fetishize Wolf Slaughter

David Cassuto

Not too long ago, I blogged about the duplicity of Japan’s “research” hunting of whales.  The practice is little more than a disingenuous attempt to circumvent the global ban on whale killing by pretending the slaughter has some scientific purpose.  I called on the rest of the world to repudiate such tactics and to hold them up to public scrutiny and scorn.

Then, a few weeks ago, a federal judge in the U.S.  ruled that gray wolf hunts in the Northern Rockies violated the Endangered Species Act.  Guess what then happened:  U.S. wildlife officials proposed a “research hunt” to kill the wolves. Apparently, their idea was that it was okay to kill listed species as long as you claimed a scientific reason for doing so.  You know, just like they do in Japan with the whales. Continue reading

A New & Welcome Chapter in the Wolf Saga

David Cassuto

I’ve blogged a fair bit about the ill-advised delisting of gray wolves as endangered species in the northern Rockies, as well as about the lawsuit that followed.  When last we left the story, the district court had denied a preliminary injunction that would have stopped the wolf hunts that subsequently took place in Montana and Idaho.  The judge did indicate, though, that the plaintiffs had a strong chance of prevailing on the merits (the standard for a preliminary injunction is formidably high, as discussed here).               Continue reading

Greed

Seth Victor

            Thank goodness we live in a world of endless and unlimited resources. If it weren’t for that, I might be worried about the way we are treating the earth.  Man, if I were to suddenly find out that the populations humans recklessly destroy were unable to immediately regenerate, I think that would be a very inconvenient truth.

            Assuming for a horrid second that this hypothetical world is grossly similar our own, hunting and fishing in this world represent the sin of greed. Let me begin by clarifying that I am aware of the arguments for sustainable hunting, both for the survival of the hunter, and the population stability of the prey. I am ignoring these arguments for now. My brief response is that starvation is not a reality faced by most hunters I know, as they still supplement their diets with CAFO-produced meat, and the overpopulation of deer and black bears, at least here in New Jersey, could be easily solved by the reintroduction of natural predators (wolves) and stronger regulations against sprawling subdivisions (like the one I guiltily live in), respectively.    Continue reading

Throwing the Wolves Out With the Bathwater

David Cassuto

Odd editorial in today’s NYT.  On the one hand, it lays bare the hypocrisy and bloodlust behind the wolf hunt in the Northern Rockies.  For example, after several wolves were killed just outside of Yellowstone (outside the park boundary, you can kill them), Montana’s wolf program director said, ““We didn’t think wolves would be that vulnerable to firearms harvest.”  Yeah, right.   Then, in Idaho, when hunters just couldn’t kill enough wolves in time, Idaho extended the season to March 31st.

On the other hand, the editorial claims that environmental groups have lost the argument that endangered grey wolves had not yet reached a sustainable population in the region.  It says that the groups are regrouping around the idea of a hunting moratorium until stronger state management plans can be formulated.  This characterization seems both premature and overstated.   Continue reading

A Sub-Optimal Ruling on the Rocky Mountain Wolf Hunt

WolfJudge Molloy has refused to stop the wolf hunt that has already begun in Idaho and will soon begin (September 15th) in Montana.  Yet his decision to deny the preliminary injunction sought by Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, the Humane Society & others does  acknowledge that the plaintiffs will likely prevail (eventually) on the merits.

Courts will only issue preliminary injunctions (which halt the challenged activity while the court considers its permissibility) when plaintiffs show that they are 1) “likely to succeed on the merits,” (2) that they are “likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief,” (3) that the “balance of equities tips” in their favor, and (4) that such an injunction is in the“public interest.” Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 129 S. Ct. 365, 374 (2008).

In this case, the court determined that it would likely find that the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to delist a portion of a “Distinct Population Segment” of a protected species ran afoul of the Endangered Species Act.  It also concluded that the agency’s decision seemed to contradict its own previous interpretations of its authority under the statute.  Inconsistent agency rulings are not entitled to judicial deference.  Consequently, the court need not defer to the agency’s new interpretation and the plaintiffs would probably prevail. Continue reading

Wolf Hunt Update

wolf-with-pupThe wolf hunt in Idaho and Montana has begun (I first blogged about it here).  A number of environmental groups sued, asking for an injunction but, since Idaho released the details of its plan of the hunt only 2 weeks ago, the court was left with very little time to consider the case.  Consequently, while the court ponders whether an injunction is appropriate, the hunt goes on. Unless and until the court intervenes, Idaho hunters can kill up to 220 wolves,  Montanans 75 wolves, and Nez Perce tribe members 35.

With all respect to the court (and the judge hearing the case has been sympathetic to this issue in the past), I do not understand why an injunction cannot issue immediately.  There is ample evidence to support the fact that a viable  Rocky Mountain wolf population should number at least 2000 (there are currently approximately 1640).  I remain appalled as well with the Obama Administration’s ham-handed, ignorant and insensitive management of this issue.  If you agree with me (and the NYT), I urge you to let President Obama and your congressional delegation know of your dismay.

–David Cassuto

A Bill to Ban Aerial Wolf Hunting

wolf huntingI’m fresh off the Long Trail.  Every year, my son and I head into the Vermont woods to be together and to be alone.  These are the best of times.

During my absence some good things happened.  For example, Judge Sotomayor got confirmed.  Plus, a few tentative steps were taken to halt the shooting of wolves from airplanes in Alaska.

Senator Feinstein and Congressman Miller (both CA Democrats) have introduced legislation to ban the shooting of wolves from the air by anyone other than state or federal wildlife employees during declared biological emergencies.

Aerial wolf killing–which Alaskans twice voted to ban only to have their wishes rejected by the State Legislature — is about as far from hunting as CAFOs are from farming.  Furthermore, despite Sarah Palin’s garblings, this issue does not implicate the 2nd Amendment and has nothing to do with Ashley Judd.  It is about using fixed wing aircraft to terrify and then butcher defenseless animals.

Proponents call this practice “predator control.”   Actually, that would make a good title for this bill.  Never have there been predators more in need of control.  Let us wish this bill godspeed as it runs the legislative gauntlet.

More here and here.

–David Cassuto

The Otter Hunt Reborn

yawningEn route to Montreal for the GRIDA Animal Law Conference (see post here), I picked up some Canadian newspapers.  From the NationalPost, I learn that aboriginals on Vancouver Island hope to kill 1% of the region’s sea otters per year for “ceremonial reasons.”

Sea otters, like so many other fur-bearing animals, were hunted to near extinction in Canada during the heyday of the European fur trade in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  They were reintroduced into British Columbia from Alaska in the early 1970s and have made progress, repopulating approximately 30% of their original range.  In 2007, the Canadian government downlisted otters from “threatened” to “special concern.”  Now, the Nuu-chah-nulth tribe and federal fisheries officials have crafted a sea otter “management plan” that will permit tribe members to shoot them.  Related story here.

This has strong parallels to the wolf scenario in the United States (some irony: the wolf-bloodthirsty governor of Idaho is named Otter…).  I appreciate the need for sensitivity to native people and traditions — an issue that does not pertain to the U.S. wolf situation.  And the discussion over when and how concern for animals should defer to native traditions must be ongoing and vigorous (it will likely surprise no one that I believe human rituals, whatever their provenance, are less important than animal lives).  But here the issue should not yet be ripe.  The otter has not even fully recovered its numbers and remains at risk.  Why the hurry to kill them?

–David Cassuto

Wolf-delisting: The Politics of Blood

gray-wolf-gazingGeorge Bush and his peeps thought gray wolves should be delisted as endangered species in Montana and Idaho.  So does Ken Salazar and, we must assume, Barack Obama.  Bush and peeps also thought it okay to ignore allies.  So, apparently, do Ken Salazar and Barack Obama.  But never mind politics.

Wolves were hunted to near extinction in this country due in large part to their (undeserved) reputation as dangerous predators and to the caterwauling of ranchers who like to poison, shoot or trap anything that might eat their animals before people do.  Thanks to the Endangered Species Act and a well-executed reintroduction program in the Northwest (carried out over the vociferous protests of ranchers and others), there are now approximately 1600 wolves in the Northern Rockies.

That, apparently, is too many.  Since Montana and Idaho have pledged to maintain populations of 400 and 500 animals, respectively, wolf-hunting may soon commence.  Supposedly, states can be trusted to create sound management plans for the animals.  Idaho Governor Butch Otter has a plan: kill as many as possible without the wolves being relisted.  You see, wolves eat elk and that means less elk for people to shoot.  It’s a crime perpetrated on the American sportsman.  Upon hearing the news of the imminent delisting, Governor Otter howled with glee and declared, “I’m prepared to bid for that first ticket to shoot a wolf myself.”

One wonders if Idaho and Montana will be like Alaska — where “hunters” can shoot wolves from the air.  Or maybe it will just be another classic confrontation of a heavily armed man against an unarmed animal who, when it dies, will almost certainly be attempting to flee.  You see, in the history of the United States, there has never been a fatal attack on a human by a wolf.  Never.

My son is doing a report on wolves for his class.  He has become fascinated by their language, their pack life, and their intelligence.  He is incredulous that they were extirpated from most of the United States and indignant about their undeserved reputation.  Last night, I told him of the Obama Administration’s decision.  He was heartbroken.

dnc

Yet Another Reason to Never Vote For Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin implemented a program to encourage the hunting of wolves in order to eliminate the natural predators of moose and caribou. Why? So that Alaskan hunters could have more moose and caribou to kill. She also asked Bush to exclude polar bears from the endangered species list. Watch this recent video of Palin’s interview while turkeys are being slaughtered for yet another reason to never vote for her. 

Luis Chiesa