Defenders of Wildlife Responds to Controversy


Suzanne Laverty (208) 424-9385
Northwest Representative, Defenders of Wildlife

Editorial Statement from Defenders of Wildlife on Recent Lethal
|Control Actions in the Northern Rockies-

In our work we frequently face tragic losses of wildlife.  Often those losses are the result of illegal killings and we employ every available resource to help law enforcement officials find and convict the criminals responsible.  We have committed over $50,000 through our Imperiled Predator Fund for rewards leading to finding and convicting those who illegally kill wolves while working to protect and strengthen national wildlife laws and enforcement resources.

Other losses are the often result of conflicts between wildlife and people. We utilize a wide range of proactive efforts and resources to reduce or avoid these conflicts including public education and awareness programs with specific guidance to reduce or avoid conflicts, grazing buyouts or allotment alternatives, wolf guardian volunteers and purchase of guard dogs to help deter wolves from livestock, and a number of other innovative tools and projects.

During the course of this spring, sixteen wolves have been killed by federal agencies in the Northern Rockies as the result of wolf related livestock depredations.  The incidents took place in three different areas - the Paradise valley near Yellowstone, the Ninemile valley near Missoula, Montana and the East Fork drainage near Clayton, Idaho.  The first resulted in the loss of a much beloved wolf from Yellowstone's Druid pack, identified as #224M, and three of his companions for the death of a calf on March 18th. The second involved the reported loss of five llamas killed in the Ninemile valley during the last three weeks. Two adult wolves have been killed to date and we have been informed that no preventative or deterrent actions were taken before lethal control was used. The latter resulted in the death of the entire Whitehawk pack in central Idaho.  All of these recent depredations occurred on private property.

The law protecting wolves in the Northern Rockies requires that if lethal control is to be used at all, it must be used only as a last resort and only after all other alternatives have been "exhausted."  Simply killing wolves to resolve conflicts is not acceptable - ethically or legally - and we are investigating these actions closely to ensure proper procedures were followed.

To be fair, we also acknowledge the federal agencies in Idaho along with the Nez Perce tribe did take substantial action to stop depredations involving the Whitehawk pack.  These actions included hazing the wolves with helicopters, use of nine remote automated guard alarm units, allowing us to develop and utilize the wolf guardian project after repeated depredations, and working with the ranchers to ensure no attractants were responsible for drawing in predators. After several encounters resulting in repeated livestock losses on private and public land, these wolves had been given more chances than most wolves in the northern Rockies, and we appreciate the nonlethal efforts made on behalf of the Idaho recovery program. We also appreciate the significant efforts of the Turner Endangered Species Fund in working to reduce wolf/livestock conflicts near Yellowstone. We strongly support nonlethal deterrents as the most acceptable form of managing livestock conflicts with wolves.

The staff of Defenders of Wildlife is deeply impacted by the death of these wolves.  We've worked extremely hard and poured a great deal of our resources in efforts to deter wolves from depredations on livestock (see the story at  ) Some of us and our members were personally connected to these animals and feel this loss is devastating. Despite the difficulties, we remain committed to working through these conflicts as effectively as possible, to ensure laws are consistently followed on behalf of the wolves, and to defend and strengthen the laws that protect them.

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Copyright 2002 Ralph Maughan
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Ralph Maughan PO Box 8264, Pocatello, ID 83209