wolves - NEWSFOCUS Wolves at the Door of a More Dangerous...

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Three weeks ago, while tracking Yellowstone National Park’s gray wolf ( Canis lupus ) packs from the air, wildlife biologist Douglas Smith darted wolf number 637, a young female from the Cougar Creek pack. Then, handling her on the ground for monitoring, he noticed that she had only three legs, probably after getting caught in a coyote trap outside the park’s boundaries. Smith, leader of the park’s wolf project, fears that 637’s misfortune could be a harbinger of things to come, because gray wolves here are soon slated to be removed from the endangered species list. The new rul- ing from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has been in the works for 5 years and is expected to be published at the end of this month in the Federal Register ; it would go into effect 30 days later. Wolves on park grounds would still be protected, but “what will happen when they travel outside the boundaries?” asks Smith. “There’s a good chance some are going to end up like this one, trapped or killed by hunters.” Smith isn’t the only one worried about the future for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains when they lose the protective shield of the federal Endangered Species Act. Yet at first glance, the announce- ment would seem cause for cele- bration. After all, wolves were intentionally driven to extinction in this region less than 100 years ago. Now, following successful reintroductions and management, their population hovers around 1500 animals. But some of those who have worked to restore the wolf say the new ruling is like the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing: It turns wolf management over to state and tribal agencies that plan to actively reduce the canid’s num- bers. The state management plans, already approved by USFWS, will allow trophy hunt- ing and trapping of wolves, plus lethal control of those that harm livestock or eat too many deer and elk. Last year, Idaho Governor C. L. Otter promised to “bid for that first ticket [hunting tag] to shoot a wolf myself,” although he later said that Idaho would manage a viable wolf pop- ulation. Most controversially, each state is required to maintain a population of only 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs. That means wolf numbers could drop to a mere 300 and still be considered “recovered,” although most wolf watchers think a tally of 500-plus animals is more likely. So instead of popping champagne corks, as usually happens when a species is brought back from the brink, conservation groups are preparing legal briefs to challenge the ruling. They charge that it’s based on poli- tics, not science. But USFWS officials say they are con- vinced their science is sound. “That is what the law mandates,” says Edward Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator at USFWS in Helena, Montana, referring to the 1994 fed- eral environmental impact statement that established the minimum numbers for recovery. “We’ve looked at every minute bit of science.” He adds that the wolf’s biologi- cal resilience gives him the most hope for
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This note was uploaded on 04/10/2008 for the course BIOL 1006 taught by Professor Lipscomb during the Spring '07 term at Virginia Tech.

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wolves - NEWSFOCUS Wolves at the Door of a More Dangerous...

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