Thursday, March 17, 2011

Gray Wolf Numbers on the Verge of Decline in Northern Rocky Mountains

Northern Rocky Mountains Wolf

A recent government report has shown that the gray wolf population in the northern Rocky Mountains has dwindled in 2010, largely due to aerial shooting and federal trappings. These icons of the American West have been the subject of debate whether to strip them off their endangered species status, or not. One side, which primarily consists of wildlife and conservation groups, argue that the animals are endangered and will definitely be pushed to the brink of extinction without serious protection. The other side, which is made up of livestock agents, say that the animals have been responsible for multiple livestock killings and giving human hunters a hard time by preying on local elk populations. Amidst this ongoing debate, wolf numbers are decimating.

According to Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), some members of the Congress are serious in stripping away the wolves of their federal protections, despite the decline in numbers. Federal records have shown that the wolf populations decreased from 1,733 in 2009 to 1,651 animals in 2010. The populations range through the northern Rockies, covering states such as Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming. During the 2009-2010 period, Idaho had witnessed the largest downfall from 870 to 705 wolves. This has made it a major contributor to the regional decline. Other states, however, had seen small population growths. Wyoming's wolf population increased from 320 to 343 animals, while Montana's population grew from 524 to 566. Oregon's and Washington's population rose from 19 to 37 wolves, including three breeding pairs.

America's wolves were removed from the endangered species list in 2009, but a federal court order backed by conservation groups, including the CBD, placed them back on the list in 2010. However, a new law introduced in the 112th Congress stated that it would remove the animals as endangered species and allowing a shoot-on-sight policy in the northern Rockies. It has been attached as a rider to spending bill proposals. The CBD stated that the House of Representatives had passed its version of the spending bill last month. Last week, a coalition of 48 conservation groups sent a letter to Senator Barbara Boxer requesting her to exercise her power as the chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works for stopping the legislature. In the letter, the groups noted saying that management decisions should be based on science.

I'm very shocked to see what has happened to wolf numbers throughout the northern Rockies these past couple years. With this ongoing debate on whether to remove them as endangered species still going, these animals have been decimated through aerial shooting and other forms of hunting. But what is even worse is that there are politicians who are still intent on removing the wolves as endangered species even though their numbers are already in decline. According to this report, Idaho is largely responsible for the regional downfall of the nation's wolf populations. And although there are some states showing growths in their local populations, it is not always a good news for conservationists. That is, conservationists would fear that killing of the animals regarding livestock predation will further diminish the populations.

I personally agree with all the conservation groups, who feel strongly about the wolves' future. That is, decisions on wolf management should be science-based and not based on politics. Just because local population rises to as many as 1,733 animals does not mean that there should be an immediate decision to start killing them. I sure hope that Senator Boxer will exercise whatever power she can, in order to prevent this bill of permanently removing wolves as endangered species from going into effect. These animals are the top predator in America's wild and rugged lands, which means without them, the wildlife would not be in perfect. I believe that one way to prevent the wolves from further reducing the region's livestock numbers would be to employ livestock guardian dogs. This method was suggested by the Cheetah Conservation Fund, who provided the local Namibian farmers Anatolian Shepherd and Kangal Dogs to protect their animals from cheetahs. Similarly, it would be wise if ranchers and farm owners living in the Rocky Mountains region should use this strategy rather go about killing wolves on sight. Without wolves, North America would never be the same.

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