Wolf Re-Listing Action Alert
Throughout the late 19th- and 20th centuries, a war was waged in the United States against the gray wolf and it was nearly hunted into extinction. At one point in history, the gray wolf population in the lower 48 states dropped to as low as roughly 300 during the early 1970s. However, in 1978, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service classified the gray wolf as an endangered species in order to help facilitate the rebound of its population. Since that time, the gray wolf population has recovered to over 6,000. Though their population has steadily increased, they roam less than 10% of their historic range and are still in danger of being pushed to extinction.
In October 2020, the Trump Administration officially announced its plan to delist the gray wolf from the endangered species list. In the immediate aftermath, states began passing legislation allowing for the culling of wolf populations. In Montana and Idaho, legislation was recently enacted that allows for the killing of up to 90% of the state’s gray wolves. In Wisconsin, hunters killed at least 216 wolves in less than 60 hours.
Due to these rollbacks and delisting, the gray wolf is at extreme risk of falling to dangerously low population levels or even extinction.
Key Talking Points
- The Trump administration made an abrupt and politically calculated decision to remove gray wolves from the endangered species list, in direct contradiction to the advice of ecologists and biologists.
- Delisting of wolves is part of a larger effort by Republican lawmakers to weaken the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and delist protected animals as they believe the ESA slows economic and industrial growth as well as burdens landowners.
- Throughout the course of Trump’s presidency, he instituted numerous rollbacks on rules for protected species. After these rollbacks, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced in October 2020 that the gray wolves would be delisted and lose their protected status.
- Now that the gray wolf has lost ESA protection, new laws in Wisconsin, Montana, and Idaho will dramatically reverse the gains that the gray wolf has made over the last 40 years if the Biden administration does not act quickly.
- A wolf hunt in early 2021 in Wisconsin killed over 200 wolves in less than 60 hours.
- Lawmakers in Montana and Idaho have followed Wisconsin’s lead and loosened restrictions around wolf hunting and brought back bounties to encourage mass slaughter.
- We cannot leave this issue up to the states. Wisconsin, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming all currently allow the public to hunt wolves. Idaho just passed a law that will allow up to 90% of their wolf population to be killed by any means and Montana followed suit with legislation that intends to reduce the population by as much as 80%. Montana and Idaho seek to kill about 2,000 wolves out of a population of about 2,333 total wolves.
- America depends on gray wolves to serve as an ecosystem guardian from the Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountains, and Great Lakes, to the Northeast.
- Gray wolves are a critical component of a healthy thriving ecosystem in many parts of America.
- Without gray wolves keeping herbivore populations in check, the ecosystem becomes disrupted, leading to a cascading effect for all other animals.
- In Yellowstone National Park, the reintroduction of wolves has led to increased beaver populations as elk populations have moved away from the open plains near river banks where they compete with beavers for the willow bush.
- Without a carnivore like wolves, herbivore populations can grow unchecked leading to issues with both human and non-human species.
- Climate change has shifted the science of species recovery and the ESA recovery goals for the gray wolf are woefully inadequate.
- The Trump Administration argued that the delisting of wolves was the right move because the gray wolf had long exceeded its recovery population goals and thus no longer needed protection. However, the recovery goals were set too low given basic population biology theory and shifts due to climate change.
- When the recovery goals were set nearly 35 years ago, there was no climate change taken into consideration as the world had yet to see the dramatic increase in natural disasters and weather events.
- Not all hunters and ranchers hate wolves and many understand the important role that they play in a healthy and resilient ecosystem.
- Humans have cohabited with wolves for millennia and 21st-century technology makes it easier than ever.
- In Wisconsin, an organization called the Ethical Sportsmen of Wisconsin popped up and organized an effort to push back on the mass slaughter of wolves there in early 2021. They bought billboards around the state that said “Real Hunters Don’t Kill Wolves.”
- Select states such as Wyoming offer livestock compensation programs for wolf-related losses including an 8-1 program for every livestock lost.
- Wolves account for less than 1% of unwanted livestock deaths.