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

Round Two in Public Hearings as SB 602 Fails the Fact-Check-Test…

A public hearing took place Tuesday January 16, 2018 on bill SB 602 . The companion bill in the assembly, Ill conceived Assembly Bill 712 Takes a Nose-Dive in Public Hearing was held last Wednesday January 10, 2018. This bill would make it illegal for WI DNR wardens or any WI state law enforcement to enforce state or federal law relating to management of wolves in Wisconsin. In other words, if a WI DNR warden came across any suspected illegal killings of wolves they would not be allowed to investigate it. Or even report suspected illegal killings of wolves to the federal authorities.

The goal of this ill conceived bill is to dump all responsibility of wolf management onto the feds. The architects’ of this proposed legislation want to wash their hands of the state’s wolf management. One program on chopping block, if the legislation passes, would be the volunteer wolf tracking program started in 1995. I’ve been a part of this program as a citizen volunteer wolf tracker since the year 2000. This means that WI DNR staff can no longer monitor wolves or the citizen volunteers.

This legislation is being put forth by a minority of politicians claiming this bill is necessary as wolves are taking over northern Wisconsin. Rep. Adam Jarchow claims wolves are decimating the White-tailed deer herd and reeking havoc on farmer’s livestock in northern Wisconsin. Senator Tiffany and Representative Jarchow’s way of wolf management is holding a trophy hunt. Wisconsin is also the only state that sanctions wolf-Hounding. Either way it’s obvious that this legislation is not guided by or based on good sense.

“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

Let’s fact check the claims being made by Senator Tom Tiffany and representative Adam Jarchow (the main architects behind this legislation). According to Senator Tiffany and Representative Jarchow wolves are out of control killing livestock. But the facts from Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources regarding wolf depredations on livestock just don’t match up with their claims. The following is from WI DNR Wolf Monitoring Reports 2016-2017 Winter:

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

Let’s now fact check the two politicians claims that wolves are decimating the White-tailed deer in northern Wisconsin. The following graphic explains how wolves are impacting northern Wisconsin’s White-tailed deer herd.

Nine-day 2016 Wisconsin deer hunt totals for Northern Forest Zone 23,445 (30% increase) antlered (buck). The Northern Forest Zone is in wolf range.

It would appear Wisconsin’s Gray wolf is building a healthier White-tailed deer herd and wolf depredations on livestock are down. Thus, when fact checking the scientific data-contrasted to the political rhetoric; it’s obvious that this legislation is not guided by or based on good sense. Or even based on any factual or scientific data for that matter.

The number of wolf depredations decreased 29% from 2015-16 when 52 incidents of depredation to livestock were confirmed.

Another side of this misguided legislation is that Wisconsin could lose millions in dollars in federal funding as Attorney Jodi Habush Sinykin pointed out in last weeks public hearing on the companion AB 712. Read on:

“It’s not a clear issue and it’s difficult to resolve as it makes sense,” said Jodi Habush Sinykin, environmental attorney for Midwest Environmental Advocates. “There are millions of dollars of federal funds at stake as well if Wisconsin were to pursue this task.” Ill conceived Assembly Bill 712 Takes a Nose-Dive in Public Hearing WODCW’s Blog

I invite you to watch the following video from HSUS Wisconsin State Representative Melissa Tedrowe’s testimony regarding SB 602. I used my iPhone to tape the public hearing while viewing it on my iPad. It was alarming that a Senator would draw a line in the center of the state in an effort to rationalize his proposed legislation. Tiffany’s line of questioning of HSUS state representative Tedrowe was a pun. Tiffany implied wolves should be moved to Monona Wisconsin because it was once part of their historic range. Tedrowe’s response was composed and dignified.

“Senator Tiffany you shared anecdotes of people living in the north. I also could trot out those anecdotes of our members and supporters who are not in fear, who walk their pets, and whose children feel safe, and love wolves, and are so proud. And another thing, this is statistically proven the DNR did a study that people in rural areas don’t want wolves hunted and trapped.”

Another committee member, Senator Terry Moulton asked the following question of Tedrowe. “Do you believe the life of a wolf is just as valuable as the life of a human-being? Senator Terry Moulton.”

The following is Tedrowe’s response:

“We don’t value animals more than people. We are trying to eliminate the most egregious cruel forms of inhumane treatments for animals where ever it’s found. I think that is a mainstream value. Most everyone in this room would not want to see animals treated cruelly. Including you (senator Tiffany).”

https://vimeo.com/251477705

The following is part of Tedrowe’s testimony:

” On behalf of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and our supporters in Wisconsin, I thank you for this opportunity to testify in opposition to SB 602. This measure sanctions wolf poaching and prevents state officials from monitoring wolves until federal delisting occurs—actions that will have dire and long-lasting consequences for the species. Equally concerning, SB 602 violates Wisconsinites’ deeply held conservation values and sets a dangerous precedent for lawmakers to cherry-pick which laws get enforced.

Wolves in the Great Lakes region had just begun to recover from being wiped out completely when they lost their federal protections in 2011. In the period between 2012 and 2014, trophy hunters, trappers and houndsmen killed more than 1,500 wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan under hostile state management programs. At least 520 wolves were killed in Wisconsin alone. In just one season, Wisconsin’s wolf population plummeted 20%, with 17 packs disappearing entirely. Wolves were killed with exceptionally cruel and unsporting methods—nearly 70% were caught in barbaric steel-jawed leghold traps or neck snares, while other methods included baiting, electronic calls, and packs of hounds.

The vast majority of Wisconsinites know that wolves matter enormously, recognizing their vital role in keeping our ecosystem healthy and balanced, and taking pride in the fact that our state is one of the few places these wolves call home. The Wisconsin DNR’s own 2014 survey of nearly 9,000 residents, which was heavily weighted to rural areas, found that most people do not want wolves hunted or trapped. They want wolves conserved for future generations.

In closing, SB 602 is a bad bill – one that endangers scientific research and obstructs law enforcement, puts our ecosystems in jeopardy, and ignores the will of the majority of state citizens. I urge the committee to vote no on this proposal and ensure that protections for gray wolves are not irrationally and prematurely taken away on behalf of a tiny, vocal minority. “

End of Wisconsin State Representative of the Humane Society of the US Melissa Tedrowe’s Testimony.

There’s more to come on this misguided legislation as AB 712 was scheduled for a committee vote today.

Updated as of 1:07 PM January 17, 2018

The Assembly Committee on Natural Resources and Sporting Heritage passed AB 712 9-5 along party lines.

“Before the vote, Chairman Joel Kleefisch noted that many people consider wolves sacred but hard-working farmers are sacred too.  He noted that AB 712 isn’t changing the law; it’s simply placing the burden of enforcement where it belongs, with the federal government.  He further noted that there have been many other instances where states have refused to enforce federal legislation, AB 712 isn’t at all unusual (my paraphrase).

This bill deserves a larger hearing and we’re now going to send it to the Assembly, Rep. Kleefisch said (again, my paraphrase).” Stated In an email by Melissa Tedrowe Wisconsin Humane Society of the US State Representative

This is how Wisconsin hunts wolves just off the ESL.

http://www.wolvesofdouglascountywisconsin.com

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
~~~