Experts say wolves should be treated like any wild game

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The prestigious Boone & Crockett Club, founded by Theodore Roosevelt in 1887 and widely recognized for its work in protecting Yellowstone National Park as well as for club members that established Glacier and Denali national parks, says the gray wolf should be delisted as an endangered and/or threatened animal and be managed as a game species by states in which the large canines are found.

The national Outdoor Wire, a special hunting-fishing-conservation Web site, recently covered the B&C Club’s presentation that dealt with the ever-increasing wolf population in northern and northwestern states.

The club’s annual meeting in Houston drew experts from every corner of the scientific world that is concerned with proper management of wildlife. There was Ed Bangs, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologist and coordinator of national wolf recovery; Valerius Geist, emeritus professor, University of Calgary; Carolyn A. Sime, wolf program coordinator, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; Dan Pletscher, director of wildlife biology programs at the University of Montana; and Paul R. Krausman, Boone and Crockett professor of wildlife conservation, University of Montana.

The meeting topics included historical wolf reintroduction into Western habitats, expansion under Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection, current status, and the delisting efforts recently stalled in the courts. 

“All of the facts and latest data reaffirm our position that the best hope for the gray wolf today is delisting [it] from the Endangered Species List as planned and turning management responsibilities over to state agencies,” said Lowell E. Baier, president of the B&C Club. “Tying up their future in the courts is not the answer.”

Baier also said that the wolf issue is regional in nature, yet international in scope with a range of stakeholders who are “victims of the emotion and hyperbole surrounding this species.” Baier added, “The polarization is like nothing else that conservationists have addressed — ever.” 

The B&C Club says in the northern Rockies the historic behaviors and patterns of elk, deer and moose that are prey for wolves and also desired game for hunters are in flux. Wolves also impact livestock, said the club. “Without state administered management, wolves could seriously impact America’s conservation system as well as private land, farming and ranching interests.” 

The Boone and Crockett Club recently sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dealing with the proposed delisting of northern Rocky Mountain gray wolves under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The letter was endorsed by 18 conservation organizations.

Six principles were offered to guide federal and state wildlife agencies, including, “When wolf populations meet scientific viability criteria for recovery they no longer require federal protection under the ESA. They should be delisted if recovery plan goals are met and where regulatory mechanisms are in place to adequately manage the species.” 

The B&C Club also said that after the animals are removed from the ESA, scientifically sound wolf management programs administered by state wildlife agencies should maintain sustainable wolf populations to preclude the need to put it back on the ESA list.

What is sometimes forgotten by anti-hunting groups is the fact that hunter-led wildlife management programs have been enormously successful over many decades. Examples include hunter-demanded limits, even cessation of all hunting, to recover once-threatened species such as certain wild ducks and geese, pronghorn antelopes, wild turkeys, deer and bears. Later, when recovery was complete, tightly regulated hunting was allowed to return — but an eye was always kept on population dips that called for immediate action to address any declines.

With that in mind, there is nothing wrong with wolves being managed as big-game animals in areas designated for wolf occupancy. Wolf seasons should be regulated by the states and any hunting must always follow the highest standards of fair and decent behavior by the participants.

The Boone and Crockett Club is headquartered in Missoula, Mont. Visit www.booneandcrockettclub.com

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