Controversy still reigns in the December 2014 decision by a judge to return wolves to the federal Endangered Species List, sending state wildlife agencies and hunters into shock at what had been a successful management program for the predators.
After years of being on the Endangered Species list the wolves in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin were being managed by state agencies. That’s often par for the course with delisted animals, and an intelligent management plan includes hunting. The wolves were being hunted successfully — of course, the animal “rights” and anti-hunting groups were going nuts about it — yet the wolf numbers continued to rise above management expectations.
Our own Dan Schmidt weighed in heavily about this after the December decision. Deer hunters in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan are aghast at the ruling. The combination of returning protection status to the wolves along with the last few brutal winters has affected the struggling white-tailed deer population in the states.
Hunters are finding wolves on game cameras, too. It’s a legitimate concern and now, the wolf populations will only grow stronger and larger.
Organizations are joining forces to try to get the ruling overturned. Here’s the latest news from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and U.S. Sportsmen’s Association about their efforts to help:
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation joined a coalition of partners by filing an appeal to remove wolves in the Great Lakes region from federal protection and return them to state management.
In December of 2014, Judge Beryl A. Howell wiped out several years of successful management in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin by returning wolves to the Endangered Species List. In her ruling, Judge Howell overlooked the region’s robust population by stating wolves in the Great Lakes cannot be considered recovered until they are re-established across their widespread historic range covering much of the United States.
“Plain and simple, state agencies –not the federal government– are best qualified and equipped to manage wolves just as they manage all other wildlife,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “The judge did not rule that the Great Lakes wolf population is ailing. On the contrary, it’s thriving—a fact that is echoed by wildlife scientists.”
“The science clearly shows that wolves are recovered in the Great Lakes region, and we believe the Great Lakes states have clearly demonstrated their ability to effectively manage their wolf populations,” said Greg Shire, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman.
An estimated 3,700 wolves currently live in the Great Lakes region, far exceeding minimum population objectives. Sixty-five percent, or an estimated 2,423 wolves, live in Minnesota.
“The (Minnesota) wolf population is absolutely in no danger of extinction or even undue decline,” said David Mech, renowned researcher and founder of the International Wolf Center. “It’s doing great and if the public decides through the legislature, and the democratic process thinks wolves should be hunted or taken, the population can sustain a high level of take on an annual basis without any concern or endanger to the population.”
The judge’s ruling put an end to wolf management hunts. It also stipulated that people can only kill a wolf in self-defense but not to protect pets or livestock.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service has the ability to interpret and implement its own rules in determining what constitutes a recovered species,” Allen said. “It should not be up to animal rights groups that file lawsuit after lawsuit and claim the states seek to push populations toward extinction. In this case, wolves are firmly recovered in a significant portion of their native range. The judge made a ruling that went too far.”
The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation has filed an appeal of the ruling handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Beryl A. Howell on Dec. 20 concerning management of gray wolves in the western Great Lakes area.
The Feb. 13 notice of appeal seeks to overturn the ruling that forced the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to return a population of wolves found in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan to the protections afforded by the Endangered Species Act – with ramifications that affect the entire scope of managing the apex predator. The decision stemmed from a lawsuit brought by Humane Society of the United States; Born Free, USA; Help Our Wolves Live; and Friends of Animals and Their Environment.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to continue to fight this legal battle,” said Evan Heusinkveld, USSA’s vice president of government affairs. “There is no doubt that wolves in the region have recovered, but to hold their management in those states hostage until wolves are reestablished in Central Park in New York City is ludicrous and we will continue to fight it.”
The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation and our partners, collectively known as the “Hunter Conservation Coalition,” will fight for sportsmen’s rights, as well as for a state’s right to scientifically manage wildlife found within their borders.
The Hunter Conservation Coalition consists of the following organizations: U.S. Sportsmen Alliance Foundation, Safari Club International, National Rifle Association of America, Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, Wisconsin Bowhunters Association, Upper Peninsula Bear Houndsmen Association, Michigan Hunting Dog Federation and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
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