Michael Robinson certainly knows about Wildlife Services. His book, Predatory Bureaucracy, gives the history of this agency’s war on wolves and other wildlife from the greatest to the least on behalf of the livestock history.
After you read this book and see how this agency has managed to survive under various names to go on and kill and kill, you can hardly feel good when you hear them announce they have killed some more wolves, but the wolves needed to be dead.
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Around eighty-five percent of the vast region of the northern Rocky Mountains and adjoining grasslands in which gray wolves were removed from the endangered species list — comprising all of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana plus parts of Utah, Oregon and Washington — has no wolves in it. Wolves periodically show up in these areas, which include national forests and other public lands, but because most of these regions are severely grazed by livestock — so much so that deer and elk don’t find enough to eat and are very rare — the wolves end up killing stock and the federal government traps and kills them or shoots them from the air.
The purpose of the delisting is to kill as many wolves as the livestock-industry can get away with to ensure that fewer wolves enter these severely grazed regions, fewer show up anywhere where stock are pastured, and, on a broader scale, that no wolves survive to disperse outside of the “recovered” zone and establish themselves in states such as Colorado where they would enjoy full legal protection; they will be killed en route.
Some history from my book, “Predatory Bureaucracy: The Extermination of Wolves and the Transformation of the West” (University Press of Colorado, 2005), may be germane to the future wolves and other wildlife face if the delisting is not reversed. During the teen years and 1920s, the U.S. government systematically poisoned, trapped and excavated the dens of most wolves in the West. With wolves largely gone, the government focused on killing coyotes but still pursued the few wolves that persisted and those that migrated in from Canada and Mexico. Five years after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service killed what may have been the last native wolf in the U.S. West in 1945 (in southern Colorado), the agency began sending its custom-produced poisons and expert personnel to Mexico, and shortly thereafter to Canada, to persuade and then aid governments there to exterminate their wolves. (They came very close to success in Mexico, but Canada was too vast and undeveloped.) From the 1950s until February 8, 1972, when President Richard M. Nixon banned the government from poisoning wildlife (a ban undone by Presidents Ford and Reagan), the Fish and Wildlife Service ringed the national parks with poison baits (and directly poisoned almost all other public lands) to kill all coyotes that left the parks. The poisoning was greatly limited, finally, after passage of the Endangered Species Act and conservationist litigation about the effects of poisoning on endangered species, inluding wolves.
Since wolves (and grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem) are off the endangered species list, expect proposals to utilize poisoning in the same way again; since poison is indiscrimate, wolves and coyotes won’t be the only victims. But even before the lengthy permiting process for expanding poison use is completed, aerial gunning will be ramped up. My prediction: More wolves will be killed through government predator control than through permitted hunting by members of the public.
The good news? The Center for Biological Diversity and our allied organizations will be going to court to reverse this delisting and forestall the slaughter. We stopped Fish and Wildlife Service’s April 1, 2003 wolf downlisting attempt (as a prelude then to delisting) through litigation, and we’ll do it again.