Gray Wolf Protection Lifted: Not By Scientific Review

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service formally lifted federal protection for more than 1,300 Gray Wolves in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Utah earlier this month. This effectively opens hunting season on the wolves that ranchers say have taken a heavy toll on their livestock in the past two decades. The Gray Wolf has become the first animal ever to be taken off the endangered species list through legislation under a measure attached to a U.S. budget deal, rather than by traditional scientific review.

Many local cattle ranchers are applauding the removal of the Gray Wolf from the endangered species list. Ron Aasheim, spokesman for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said his state’s wolf population has grown to the point where it can sustain hunting. The states of Montana and Idaho are planning to hold public wolf hunts in the upcoming fall.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that wolves killed 8,100 adult cattle and calves across the country last year. The total value of the cattle lost was $3.6 million, making up for only 4 percent of all cattle lost last year. Far more cattle is lost every year due to illness or weather. Many ranchers believe that the mere presence of wolves puts cattle under so much stress that they don’t breed or put on weight properly.

Minnesota’s staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, Collette Adkins Giese, believes delisting the wolves is premature without a nationwide recovery plan. She believes wolves in the western Great Lakes and Northern Rockies should remain protected to help repopulate the wolf populations in the Northeast and Northwest regions. Ranchers losses could be returned through state compensation or non-lethal options such as guard animals, fencing, and frequent checking. However, the Gray Wolves’ federal protection has been lifted and they are now open game for hunting.

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