A leading anti-hunting organization is preparing a nationwide petition urging the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to place the Northern Rocky Mountain wolf population back on the Endangered Species List. This while research indicates increasing wolf numbers in the region may be playing a large role in the decline of elk population.
The Defenders of Wildlife, known for its relentless work to end all wolf management programs, is heavily pushing a new online petition that asks Secretary Salazar to reconsider placing the wolves back on the Endangered Species list, much like the Great Lakes wolf populations were again relisted in September.
A coalition of animal rights groups, including Defenders, previously sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in an effort to block planned hunts in Montana and Idaho. Those hunts were part of the states’ management plans to be implemented after the wolves had been removed from protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Judge Donald W. Molloy of the Federal District Court for Montana ruled against the coalition and allowed those hunts to continue, though the decision appeared to leave the door open to further challenges to the delisting. Judge Molloy noted that FWS did not delist the population in Wyoming and commented that “the service has distinguished a natural population of wolves based on a political line, not the best available science.” Should the wolves be placed back under ESA protection, all hunts in the region would cease.
Meanwhile, studies have linked the reintroduction of the wolves into the Rocky Mountain region to a decline of the elk population in the same area.
According to research from Montana State University, the number of elk on Yellowstone’s northern range was estimated at between 17,000 and 19,000 before the wolves were reintroduced in 1995. As of 2008, those numbers have declined to under 7,000. The study indicates that the presence of an increasing number of wolves was resulting in changes in behavior by elk including having fewer calves.
It is estimated that 1,350 wolves currently live within the northern Rockies. Idaho’s wolf hunting season began on September 1 with a limit of 220 wolves that can be harvested. Montana’s season began September 15 and has a harvest limit of 75.
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