Wildlife management means more than killing

There are 3 comments on the Statesman Journal story from Jan 29, 2006, titled Wildlife management means more than killing. In it, Statesman Journal reports that:

As a longtime Oregonian, I've read with interest the recent articles on wildlife management.

Join the discussion below, or Read more at Statesman Journal.

Jay Mallonee

Pierce, ID

#1 Jan 30, 2006
As an independent wolf biologist in northwest Montana, I can empathize with the person who wrote the editorial about wildlife management and killing. Wolf management, at least in Montana, has involved a complex and convoluted social-political process which has resulted in the deaths of more than one third of Montana’s wolves annually. Compared with the wolves reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho, the other areas involved in gray wolf recovery, this number is staggering. In the two reintroduction areas, only a 4 - 10 percent mortality has been observed and these were from natural causes. So what has been killing Montana’s wolves?
To find out, I examined the annual reports published by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal agency responsible for wolf recovery. The reports reviewed wolf numbers and population trends in each of the three recovery areas. In 2002 for example, 35% of Montana’s wolf population was eliminated. In 2003 it was 36%, and in 2004 the mortality was 41%. The majority of deaths were the result of government control actions.
The scientific literature has suggested that an annual mortality rate in excess of 34% may produce unsustainable wolf populations in the future. This could be a potential problem when Montana’s wolves are eventually taken off the Endangered Species List and no longer federally protected. The scenario is different in the reintroduction areas.
Yellowstone is a national park and central Idaho is a wilderness area, the top two classifications of federal protection afforded to natural areas in the United States. The wolves will be protected in these areas whether they are removed from the Endangered Species List or not. The 2003 report demonstrated the areas just outside of Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho, which are unprotected, have had the same mortality rates as Montana. The data indicated that unless wolf areas are protected, public attitude and management techniques perpetuate conflicts between wolves and humans.
The causes of these conflicts, at least in part, are based on how wolves are perceived. Wolf managers, for example, often refer to wolves as “management units” and make plans for their future “harvest.” Science, however, has demonstrated a wolf pack is a dynamic process in which “management units” interact with each other and the surrounding environment. Still other people believe wolves will devour their children for lunch. Apparently a lack of understanding about these creatures is what has been killing Montana’s wolves. Consequently, the public’s fear and bigotry toward wolves in Montana has remained high, and management agencies have responded by killing more wolves. In my opinion, management agencies could benefit from the following suggestions:

1. Take a leadership role in wolf management and create a system which is effective yet compassionate. If wolves must be killed do so out of necessity rather than convenience.

2. Such a system requires a broader perspective of wolves in which management is only one of many tools to help keep the peace among people and wildlife. A greater understanding of ecological principles, animal behavior, and field research would greatly benefit management personnel.

3. Communicate with the public and listen to their concerns. It is an effective approach, and often just talking with people helps reduce or eliminate their fears about wolves.

4. Cooperate and work with independent researchers. We have much to offer, including perspectives which management agencies have not yet considered. A variety of knowledge would lead to a greater number of available options in the future.

5. Learn more about wolves. They are complex creatures and so is their place in the environment. Science has only begun to study them with any depth.
Jay Mallonee

Pierce, ID

#2 Jan 30, 2006
As an independent wolf biologist in northwest Montana, I can empathize with the person who wrote the editorial about wildlife management and killing. Wolf management, at least in Montana, has involved a complex and convoluted social-political process which has resulted in the deaths of more than one third of Montana’s wolves annually. Compared with the wolves reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho, the other areas involved in gray wolf recovery, this number is staggering. In the two reintroduction areas, only a 4 - 10 percent mortality has been observed and these were from natural causes. So what has been killing Montana’s wolves?
To find out, I examined the annual reports published by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal agency responsible for wolf recovery. The reports reviewed wolf numbers and population trends in each of the three recovery areas. In 2002 for example, 35% of Montana’s wolf population was eliminated. In 2003 it was 36%, and in 2004 the mortality was 41%. The majority of deaths were the result of government control actions.
The scientific literature has suggested that an annual mortality rate in excess of 34% may produce unsustainable wolf populations in the future. This could be a potential problem when Montana’s wolves are eventually taken off the Endangered Species List and no longer federally protected. The scenario is different in the reintroduction areas.
Yellowstone is a national park and central Idaho is a wilderness area, the top two classifications of federal protection afforded to natural areas in the United States. The wolves will be protected in these areas whether they are removed from the Endangered Species List or not. The 2003 report demonstrated the areas just outside of Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho, which are unprotected, have had the same mortality rates as Montana. The data indicated that unless wolf areas are protected, public attitude and management techniques perpetuate conflicts between wolves and humans.
The causes of these conflicts, at least in part, are based on how wolves are perceived. Wolf managers, for example, often refer to wolves as “management units” and make plans for their future “harvest.” Science, however, has demonstrated a wolf pack is a dynamic process in which “management units” interact with each other and the surrounding environment. Still other people believe wolves will devour their children for lunch. Apparently a lack of understanding about these creatures is what has been killing Montana’s wolves. Consequently, the public’s fear and bigotry toward wolves in Montana has remained high, and management agencies have responded by killing more wolves. In my opinion, management agencies could benefit from the following suggestions:

1. Take a leadership role in wolf management and create a system which is effective yet compassionate. If wolves must be killed do so out of necessity rather than convenience.

2. Such a system requires a broader perspective of wolves in which management is only one of many tools to help keep the peace among people and wildlife. A greater understanding of ecological principles, animal behavior, and field research would greatly benefit management personnel.

3. Communicate with the public and listen to their concerns. It is an effective approach, and often just talking with people helps reduce or eliminate their fears about wolves.

4. Cooperate and work with independent researchers. We have much to offer, including perspectives which management agencies have not yet considered. A variety of knowledge would lead to a greater number of available options in the future.

5. Learn more about wolves. They are complex creatures and so is their place in the environment. Science has only begun to study them with any depth.
Confidential

Libby, MT

#3 Oct 26, 2007
Do you think that the wolf population will decrease or increase when the government takes them off the endangered species list?

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