U.S. House Passes Bill To De-List Wolves From Endangered Species

Click here to listen to full story from WXRP by Ken Krall and Rachel Tilseth

The U.S. House earlier this month passed an appropriations bill that has language in it changing the status of the gray wolf from federally protected to delisted in the lower 48 states.

This movement has been asked for by people who want to control the wolf population in the Great Lakes states, but has alarmed an advocate who wants to keep federal protection of wolves.

Rachel Tilseth has the blog Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin. She has an update on the bill that passed the U.S. House… http://www.wolvesofdouglascountywisconsin.com

“…so this bill contains language to delist the gray wolf in the lower 48 states. So what they are going to do is delist them and make sure they stay delisted in Wyoming and Montana and a couple other states out there. They also want no review of those decisions through a federal judge. They want to make sure that doesn’t happen. That would also take care of delisting the great lakes as well….”

Congressman Sean Duffy and both Wisconsin U.S. Senators, Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin, have called for delisting. Last summer, a federal appeals court retained federal protection for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region, ruling the government made crucial errors when it dropped them from the endangered species list five years ago.

Tilseth says if the de-listing happens, then a wolf hunt will likely happen again in Wisconsin which concerns her…

“…In the last three hunts, from 2012-2014. So they will start that whole process over again and start hunting, that is, unless we can go in and get greater transparency with the public, then perhaps we can change things….”

Some hunters and farmers have called for the delisting to control the wolf population and to remove wolves taking livestock. Wolf de-listing advocates say the population has grown too large and should be controlled.

Recent reports find the number of wolves in Wisconsin leveling off. This year’s wolf count shows there are between 905 and 944 wolves in the state. That’s about a 2 percent drop from last year.

Featured photograph By John E Marriott

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Snare Traps are Indiscriminate Killers, Land Mines Concealed in the Wilderness

www.wolvesofdouglascountywisconsin.com by Rachel Tilseth

…Snare Trap is a device concealed underground and baited with tantalizing attractive scents capable of causing great suffering for its victims. A male Timber wolf in northern Minnesota became the latest victim of a snare trap. He became caught in a snare trap meant to catch and ensnare small game. The snare meant for small game, became wrapped tightly around the muzzle of the male wolf. Can we even begin to imagine the pain and suffering that occurred as a result of this man-made killing device. How could the male wolf have known the tantalizing scents concealed a land mine known as a snare trap and set in his home range. The more an unsuspecting woodland creature tries to pull out of the device, the more the noose tightens around the body part caught in the trap. Certain death from starvation became the fate of the male wolf as the noose became tightly wrapped around his mouth. Several people saw the male wolf north of Duluth Minnesota, and tried to help.

I spoke with a volunteer at Wildwoods Wildlife Rehabilitation out of Duluth, Minnesota. They said, “several people saw the wolf and tried to help him.” The Wildwood’s volunteer told me Kelly Looby was able to get within a few feet of the wolf, a photographer, even making eye contact with him. She kept following the wolf, but he seemed very wary of humans, and disappeared and reappeared several times.

Photo courtesy of Kelly Looby

Wildwoods reported the wire snare was wrapped tight around the wolf’s nose, and embedded into the nose. He clearly could not open his mouth at all. The male wolf was very thin, as was told to them by volunteer and eyewitness Kelly Looby.

“He might have been able to lick up some snow and sniff roadkill, but he had not been able to eat,” a volunteer from Wildwoods said. “He had been starving, and was a skeleton of fur and bones.”

Photo courtesy of Kelly Looby

No one knows how long the male wolf suffered. He was first sighted near Tettegouche State Park on Lake Superior’s North Shore earlier in the week, then north of the city in Duluth Saturday February 10th. Wildwoods reported they just didn’t have the equipment needed to catch him. Many people tried to catch him but he was too fast.

In the end the Duluth police made the heart wrenching decision to put him down at 2 pm Saturday afternoon. Wildwoods was able to examine the wolf. They reported that underneath his thick winter coat he was skin and bones.

“Humans caused the initial pain and suffering of this beautiful wolf by creating the snare, and in the end taking his life to end his suffering.” said Kelly Looby.

Photo courtesy of Wildwoods

Wildwoods told me they were able to gain the equipment, a net gun, through donations after this tragedy. With this net gun they will be able to capture and treat victims of snare traps in the future.

“Snares are cruel trapping devices, causing pain, injury and death. Animals caught in snares can suffer from grotesque swelling and hemorrhaging of the head, can be hanged to death by jumping over a nearby fence or branch in a desperate attempt to escape, and can suffer from exposure, dehydration, and starvation. Snares are grossly indiscriminate, capturing any animal of the right height or size unlucky enough to pass through the snare – including pets, imperiled wildlife species, deer and raptors.” ~Melissa Tedrowe HSUS Wisconsin State Representative

Minnesota DNR Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook states the following: Snares may be used by licensed trappers for taking all species of protected wild mammals that may be taken by the use of traps. In the forest zone, snares are allowed on public land and on private land with permission of the landowner.

Take action to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again…

Howling For Wolves supports current state legislation that would eliminate recreational snaring of all wildlife: House File 2160, authored by Representatives Fischer, Loon, Kunesh-Podein, Rosenthal, Ward, Slocum, Allen, Dehn, R., and Hornstein and its companion bill, Senate File 1447, authored by Senators Hoffman, Wiger, and Dibble.

“To look into the eyes of a wolf is to see your own soul – hope you like what you see.” ~Aldo Leopold

 

Photos used in this story courtesy of Kelly Looby and photo of dead wolf credited to Wildwoods.

Please take action to protect Wisconsin’s wild wolf from legislation not guided by or based on good sense…

…A new bill that ties the hands of local law enforcement from assisting federal authorities in any investigation into the illegal killing of Wisconsin’s wild wolf. Wolves are a federally protected endangered species.

According to Wisconsin Gray Wolf Monitoring Report (April 2016 through April 2017) vehicle collisions (39%) and illegal kills (20%) were the leading causes of death for detected mortalities.

Just when you think wolf education & awareness should take precedent, here comes more political rhetoric.

This time it’s in the form of a bill, 2017 Assembly Bill 712, and companion bill SB 602 which would make it illegal for law enforcement to enforce state or federal law relating to management of wolves in Wisconsin. Fringe politicians claim this bill is necessary as wolves are taking over northern Wisconsin. Rep. Adam Jarchow claims wolves are decimating deer and livestock and must be managed (Jarchow’s way of wolf management is a trophy hunt). Wisconsin is also the only state that sanctions wolf-Hounding. Either way it’s obvious that this legislation not guided by or based on good sense.

This is how Wisconsin manages an endangered species just off the ESL.

This is how Wisconsin manages an endangered species just off the endangered species list.

Let’s remember that when a politician wants something they’re not above using smoke and mirrors tactics to spin the facts in their favor. In this case, they claim wolves are eating all the deer and killing livestock at an unprecedented rate. Here’s the truth; wolves in a given year have taken 6% of the White-tailed deer population.

“The leading causes of deer mortality in the state, as Wisconsin wildlife managers have long said, are human hunters and severe winters. A 2009 DNR document ranked the deer kill in Wisconsin’s northern and central forest regions this way: 122,000 deer killed by hunters (bow and gun), about 50,000 due to winter stress (the range could vary widely), 33,000 to black bears, 16,000 to coyotes, 13,000 to motor vehicles, 13,000 to wolves and 6,000 to bobcats.” (Source)

This new bill is a rather lame attempt by a few politicians, that think the public is easily led astray by smoke and mirrors political tricks. Let’s check the facts on wolf depredations from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website:

“Thirty-seven incidents of wolf depredation to livestock and 11 incidents of wolf threat to livestock were confirmed on 31 different farms during the monitoring period (Table 6). This included 8 of 34 farms classified as chronic wolf depredation farms (24%). Livestock depredations included 33 cattle killed and 6 injured, 27 sheep killed, and 2 miniature donkeys killed and 1 injured. The number of farms affected decreased slightly from 2015-16 when 34 farms were affected (Figure 7). The number of incidents decreased 29% from 2015-16 when 52 incidents of depredation to livestock were confirmed.” WI DNR Wolf Monitoring Reports 2016-2017 Winter

“This is a far-reaching bill, this is a ploy to get their way, this is a way to drum up more publicity for their cause and they’re not telling the truth,” Tilseth said. “They’re not giving real facts.” Wisconsin Public Radio Interview November 12, 2017

If anything remember how much time, tax dollars and efforts have been put into forty years of wolf recovery in Wisconsin. We should appreciate the role wolves play on balancing Wisconsin’s ecosystems.

Politicians are not qualified to dictate wolf management policy.

Another aspect of this misguided legislation targets wolf monitoring programs. One program developed by retired wolf biologist Adrian Wydeven will be on the chopping block if this legislation is passed.

“The volunteer tracker program has been in place since 1995 and coordinates up to 150 trackers each year.” Source

“The WDNR has trained, guided, and used data from volunteer carnivore trackers. Interruption of this program would reduce citizen science opportunities in Wisconsin, and eliminate a source of wolf population data for the WDNR. Though the program was started in 1995, it took several years after establishment for trackers to gain the expertise to assure and maximize data quality. Disruption of this program may require several years for re-establishment and reduce support from volunteers.” From: Wisconsin’s Greenfire, Wolf Management Restrictions

I joined the Wisconsin’s DNR volunteer winter wolf monitoring program in the year 2000. I’ve contributed my time and money as a citizen helping to gather wolf population data for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. If this bill passes winter track surveys or work with citizen scientists on data collection could no longer be coordinated with DNR staff.

Please take action to protect Wisconsin’s wild wolf from legislation not guided by or based on good sense.

Contact the following politicians:

Rep. Mary Felzkowski: Rep.Felzkowski@legis.wisconsin.gov, 608-266-7694

Rep. Romaine Quinn: Rep.Quinn@legis.wisconsin.gov, 608-282-3675

Rep. Adam Jarchow: Rep.Jarchow@legis.wisconsin.gov 608-267-2365

Sen. Tom Tiffany: Sen.Tiffany@legis.wi.gov, 608-266-2509

Contact your Wisconsin state representatives CLICK HERE

Opinion Editorial: Criminally harassing protected gray wolves is a violation of the Endangered Species Act

By Rachel Tilseth 
In 2016 37 dogs were killed in the pursuit of bear in northern Wisconsin. Are any wolves being injured or killed in the decades-old conflict between bear hunters and wolves? In a call to the USFWS services Great Lakes Office I asked them that question. USFWS didn’t have an answer for me. My concern is that when USFWS investigates a wolf depredation on a hunting dog; do they investigate if any wolves were injured or killed as a result of the encounter? Wolves are an endangered species protected under the Endangered Species Act. The word “protected” was the sticking point for me. Criminally harassing protected gray wolves is a violation of the ESA. 
There is hope for a solution to the deacades-old conflict between bear hunters and wolves, and it’s a legal one.  
On August 2nd a letter was sent to USFWS: “This is a formal request for an investigation of alleged criminal violations relating to the illegal take of the federally protected gray wolf (Canis lupus) in Wisconsin. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (“PEER”) has learned of ongoing illegal harassment of the gray wolf by hound hunters in Wisconsin.” Letter from PEER 
The Criminal Complaint Cites State Payments for Hunting Dogs Killed in Wolf Clashes was filed on August 2, 2017 by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). 

The Criminal Complaint from PEER: 
“Washington, DC — Hunters unleashing packs of dogs to tree bears in Wisconsin woods are criminally harassing gray wolves in violation of the Endangered Species Act, according to a complaint filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The complaint cites state payments to hunters to compensate for hunting dogs killed or injured in clashes with wolves as evidence of violations.”
The last sentence in the above paragraph makes it perfectly clear that the evidence is, “…state payments to hunters to compensate for hunting dogs killed or injured in clashes with wolves as evidence of violations.”

Wolves a protected species under the federal ESA are being harassed. 

…“Endangered species are legally protected from human activity which adversely affects the animals, not just physical injury but harm to habitat or breeding. Loosing packs of dogs on them absolutely constitutes an adverse impact.” Said, Staff attorney Adam Carlesco (PEER)
In a previous Blog I asked this question; Considering the decades of conflict between bear hunters and wolves; is this becoming harassment of an endangered species? Isn’t this illegal? 
The conflict between bear hunters and wolves has been occurring for decades. In a Wisconsin Public Television special about Wisconsin wolves; the conflict between bear hunters and wolves was addressed back in October 2010. Watch the the following video. 

The conflict between bear hunters and wolves is a reality, and it continues to play out every summer in Wisconsin’s north woods. 

 Bear hunter holds up a dog killed by wolves Hunters using dogs in pursuit of bear in the norths woods of Wisconsin run their hounds right through wolf rendezvous sites (where wolf pups are kept). Wolf pups are only about three months old when hunters begin running their dogs on bear. They run hounds through known wolf caution areas; even though WDNR sends out alerts to avoid those areas. In 1982 Wisconsin started a wolf depredation program. Wolf depredation program pays $2,500.00 per hunting dog. In 2016 thirty-seven bear hunting dogs were killed in the pursuit of bear. Several bear hunters received multiple wolf depredation program payments, and even ones with criminal charges; such as poaching a black bear. WODCW’s Blog

We have no way of knowing if wolves are being killed during these encounters occurring every summer; between dogs that are in pursuit of bear, and wolves that are defending their pups. In the PEER criminal complaint, criminal take can occur when a hunter’s activities, “…as appears to be the case here.” The “hunter’s activities” of running dogs in pursuit of bear through wolf rendezvous sites. Read the definition of criminal take from the press release: 
“Under the federal Endangered Species Act, criminal “take” does not require proving that the hunter intended to hurt a wolf. Take can occur when a hunter mistakenly shoots an endangered species believed to be a non-listed animal. Criminal take can also occur when a hunter’s activities, though not specifically directed at a listed species, result in take of a listed species, as appears to be the case here.” PEER criminal complaint
Bear hunter’s activities, as in use of dogs in the pursuit of bear can be considered criminal “take” in this criminal complaint. PEER in a Letter to the USFWS law enforcement requested a full investigation:
William C. Woody

Chief, Office of Law Enforcement

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

5600 American Boulevard, West, Suite 990 Bloomington, MN 55437-1458

RE: Request for Criminal Investigation – Violation of the Endangered Species Act

Dear Chief Woody:

This is a formal request for an investigation of alleged criminal violations relating to the illegal take of the federally protected gray wolf (Canis lupus) in Wisconsin. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (“PEER”) has learned of ongoing illegal harassment of the gray wolf by hound hunters in Wisconsin. These activities have led to adverse effects on breeding patterns and the habitat of the gray wolf. PEER believes these activities constitute prima facie evidence of ongoing criminal misconduct.” Letter
A response from the president of the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association Star Tribune article, “Wisconsin tradition – hunting bears with dogs – comes under attack by wolf advocates” Wolf advocates attack Wis. reimbursements. By Josephine Marcotty Star Tribune AUGUST 11, 2017, stated, “…also there are many more wolves, period. Also, the wolves have now devestated the deer population in northern Wisconsin, they have become more aggressive in their search for food, and thus more likely to target our dogs.” Carl Schoettel, president of Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, full response to questions from the Star Tribune. 

Wolves are responsible for taking 6% of White-tailed deer population in wolf range in 2014

A “Study sheds light on top causes of deer mortality” conducted in 2014 found that; “…In fact, human hunting was responsible for about twice as much deer mortality in northern Wisconsin than the other four causes combined. The rates of mortality were human hunting 43%, starvation 9%, coyote 7%, wolf 6% and roadkill 6%.” Source
Who’s responsible for the record number of dogs killed by wolves in 2016? We know wolves are killing hunting dogs that run through rendezvous sites where wolf pups are kept. It’s absurd to lay blame exclusively upon an endangered species, wolves in this case. Laying blame on a wild animal that is defending offspring from the activity of human hunters is irresponsible.  
For over a year now, I’ve been saying (WODCW Blog) it’s the “loosening” of regulations as the probable cause for the high number of hunting dogs deaths. In PEER’s letter to USFWS requesting a full investigation what the cause is: 
“Furthermore, in 2015, the state eliminated the “Class B” bear hound training licenses. While a Class A license or “kill tag” is still required for any hunter wishing to kill a black bear, the Class B licensing requirements have been rescinded. See Wis. Stat. 29.184(3)(a) (stating that no license is required to, among other things, train a dog to track bear or assist a holder of a Class A bear license). Class B requirements mandated that a prospective hunter seeking to train hounds obtain a permit from the state to do so. A Class B permit allowed a hunter to bait bears, train dogs to track bears, act as a back-up shooter, or assist a hunter pursuing a bear. Now both residents and non-residents may run hound dogs through Wisconsin’s wilderness for training purposes unchecked and without licensed oversight from the state.” PEER Letter

Harassment or pursuit of a wolf while hound hunting is prohibited by the ESA. 

More from PEER criminal complaint:
“Harassment or pursuit of a wolf while hound hunting is a prohibited act as evidenced by the plain language of the ESA’s “take” definition, which includes harassment and pursuit. However, over the course of Wisconsin’s 2016 hunting season, forty-eight hounds were killed by wolves, twenty-one of which occurred on public lands, and more than fifteen of those acts occurred after hunters were informed of the fact that they were hunting in “wolf caution areas.”18 The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources creates specific “wolf caution areas” that warn hunters of previous instances of wolf attacks on hound dogs in a hunting or training situation. To aid hunters, the DNR website features an interactive “Gray Wolf Depredation Mapping Application” which “shows all verified wolf depredations and threats on livestock, hunting dogs and pets as well as verified human health and safety conflicts.”19 Lastly, DNR has an e-mail and text alert system to inform residents about wolf activity in their area.20” PEER criminal complaint letter to USFWS

Such action is in obvious conflict with Congress’ intent to protect a fragile species and constitutes a criminal violation of the ESA.

Additionally, because hound training season in Wisconsin takes place when wolves are raising their pups, the fact that hounds are running through clearly identified wolf territory unchecked means that such actions directly impair the wolves’ ability to breed, feed, and find shelter; activity specifically protected by the plain language of the ESA’s implementing regulations. 50 C.F.R. 17.3. Such action is in obvious conflict with Congress’ intent to protect a fragile species and constitutes a criminal violation of the ESA. PEER criminal complaint letter to USFWS
In a conversation with USFWS Great Lakes Region office over a month or so ago, I asked them if they would investigate bear hunters using dogs in pursuit of bear, because this activity or sport was getting out of hand; not only were a record number of hunting dogs being lost, but I began to think wolves were being harassed by this activity. Hunters were repeatedly going into Wisconsin DNR Wolf caution areas. “Wolf caution areas are created to warn hunters that a specific pack has attacked a dog or group of dogs. Bear hunters are urged to exercise greater caution if they plan to train hounds or hunt bear with hounds near any caution area, especially if near an actual kill site.” From the WDNR wolf caution website
USFWS never got back to me, and my next step was to call PEER, because I had heard good things about their work. In the end, PEER took my concerns seriously, the result is a criminal complaint letter requesting USFWS law enforcement to investigate. There is hope and it’s a legal one. We are now awaiting a response from USFWS. 

In 2017 minimum wolf population estimates was 925. 

For links in this editorial Click here
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