Saturday, February 04, 2006

Idaho Fish and Game Wolf Control Proposal

Just three days after the US Government gave the Idaho Fish and Game Department wolf management responsibility over the wolf population in Idaho, Fish and Game submitted a proposal to kill 43 wolves in the Clearwater area. As a resident of Idaho, the surprising point was that it took them three days.

More information is available at: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/wildlife/wolves/wolf_control.cfm

Comments can also be submitted on the site.

Here are my comments submitted against the proposal:
First, let me start by saying that I am opposed to the control proposal. While I do believe that compromises need to be made now and then, I do not believe that the solution put forth in this proposal is going to solve the problem. It is clear that this report makes some very large assumptions which are based on political perspective and not on science. I would encourage the team to look at the depth of research available on wolves, wolf predation, the impact of wolves on eco-systems, etc. This report is written from the same "the sky is falling" perspective that was used to try to block reintroduction in the first place.

A few points on the proposal.
-Eco-systems have natural controls in place to balance out. If the elk do significantly decline, the wolf population will naturally decline as well. Take a look at the Yellowstone wolf populations. For two years running there has been no growth in the populations, and surprise, the elk have not been decimated as predicted by some.

-By controlling the wolf population, you may very well increase the elk population in the short term, but you will still not have a balanced eco-system. We must pay the price for a balanced eco-system at some point. Why not now, instead of waiting for 5 years to face the same issue.

-The proposal is also based on a "target population" of elk which is artificially set. Do we know what the historical elk population in the area is? Say 1000 years ago? The target populations are based on our experience from years without wolves in the eco-system. Those numbers are artificially high, which occur whenever a top predator is missing. Yellowstone once again provides proof of this theory. After wolf re-introduction, the coyote population was cut in half and then stabilized. What is the right coyote population in Yellowstone, the number before re-introduction or after. We must look at elk in the same manner. I claim that you don't know what the target elk population should be in a natural eco-system in this area. Lets find out.

-The study on cow elk depredations does not look at all of the important factors. The proposal does not provide the age and condition of the cow elk that were collared for the research. Yellowstone studies for 10 years have shown that wolves are more than twice as likely to take cow elk which are past or in their final years of reproduction (10+ years old).

-The study cited that elk calf survival rates increased when bears were previously reduced in the area. The implied assumption here is that this was better for the eco-system. How do we know that? Once again I would question our understanding of what a healthy eco-system in this area looks like.

I would once again like to encourage you to be conservative in your intervention, and let the natural processes work themselves out like they have in other eco-systems. We will all be better off when this eco-system reaches it natural balance, versus our ongoing intensive management.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


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