This is the time when wolves are awaiting the birth of pups, which occurs in Yellowstone during April. Right now the park seems to be catching up on a low total snowfall so far this winter, which may make for a late (and very short) spring.
The one hundred or so wolves now living in the park are, of course, still protected, as is all national park wildlife, but since last April wolves in the neighboring states of Idaho and Montana have been delisted from Endangered Species Act protections, while Wyoming management plans proposed so far have not been accepted, and the wolf population there is still under federal control. The Wyoming state senate has recently approved a wolf management plan that would allow wolves to be shot on sight across a majority of the state,
Idaho rivals Alaska for the most aggressive policies for hunting wolves. It allows trapping and aerial gunning, and its ten-month wolf season runs until June, claiming 353 wolves so far.
Montana hunters have killed 166 this season, with an overall quota set at 220. However, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission decided not to extend the 2011-2012 wolf hunt in one Montana area, the Bitterroot Valley.
Radio station KSRO of Sonoma County, California, reported today:
A federal appeals court on Wednesday rejected a lawsuit from conservation groups that want to block wolf hunts that have killed more than 500 of the predators across the Northern Rockies in recent months.
The ruling from a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Congress had the right to intervene when it stripped protections from wolves last spring.
As stated by Local News 8 in Eastern Idaho and Western Wyoming:
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is praising Idaho and Montana for successful management of gray wolves. In its 2011 Annual Report for the Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Population, the Service now estimates the region’s wolf population at 1774 animals and 109 breeding pairs.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mountain-Prairie Regional Director Steve Guertin said, ‘these population estimates indicate the credible and professional job Montana and Idaho have done in the first year after they have assumed full management responsibilities.’ He said the states’ management plans will maintain a healthy wolf population at or above the agency’s recovery goals.
Researching online further today, I came across a long but thoroughly researched article on the present state of wolf protection and wolf removal, with much information to offer. The American Prospect magazine is new to me. I learned today that it is a liberal publication founded in 1990 by three men, including Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor under President Clinton and currently Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at U. C. Berkeley. From http://prospect.org/article/wolves-slaughter (article by Christopher Ketcham, April 2012 print edition), I read that “elk numbers in some areas have declined, due in part to wolf predation. Yet in other areas where wolves and elk interact, elk numbers are stable or increasing. According to the Endangered Species Coalition, total elk population in the Northern Rockies has in fact risen since wolves were restored—from 312,000 to 371,000, a 19 percent increase since 1994.”
It is certainly not news to me that the great decline in elk numbers in Yellowstone in the twenty-first century is at least partly due to the reintroduction of wolves, but the next sentence was very interesting to me, proving that there must be other factors contributing to the decline in Yellowstone’s elk population.