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September 01, 2009

Wild Wild West for Wolves?

Today is a dark day for wolves in America, and one that The HSUS had hoped would never arrive. The state of Idaho set loose more than 10,000 hunters to start killing wolves today—the first sport hunting season on wolves to occur in any lower 48 state since the 1980s. It comes after a legally unjustifiable decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the Idaho and Montana population of wolves from the protections of the Endangered Species Act, and pave the way for the same reckless sport hunting and persecution that put these animals on the endangered species list in the first place.

Gray wolf with cub
Photo credit Corsi/California Academy of Science

For almost a decade The HSUS and a broad coalition of environmentalists have fought in the courts to stave off more than six different efforts to declare open season on wolves. Just last month HSUS lawyers succeeded in stopping similar planned wolf hunts in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. But despite a dramatic 11th hour court hearing yesterday in a case led by Defenders of Wildlife, no stay of execution has yet been issued for wolves in Idaho and Montana.

Here’s what we know. First, wolves have had a major and beneficial ecological impact throughout the Northern Rockies, keeping populations of elk, deer, and other animals in check. This has had a cascade effect throughout the entire ecological community, especially on plants. Second, we know there are only 1,500 wolves in the entire Northern Rockies, and that the sport hunting seasons in Idaho and soon also in Montana and the virtually unlimited killing of wolves by livestock operators, might eliminate from one-third to one-half of the animals—with an untold number of other wolves injured and not retrieved by hunters. Third, we know that wolves live in closely knit family groups, and this plan will not only result in the suffering and death of wolves shot or trapped, but also disrupt the social structures of the families and create anguish and emotional suffering for the surviving family members.

We are holding out hope that the U.S. District Court in Montana will put a stop to this horrible turn of events for wolves, but with hunters already in the field today it seems clear that a wolf massacre is unavoidable. We’ll continue to do everything we can to stop this pogrom against wolves.

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