As September reached its halfway point, trophy hunters were let loose across Montana—including on the edges of Yellowstone National Park—to hunt for some of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem’s most iconic and ecologically charismatic species: wolves.
Restraints that had formerly limited the kill to one wolf in this hunting zone, to reduce the likelihood of harming Yellowstone’s wolves and ecosystems, had recently been wiped away by Montana officials.
Within a few days, hunters shot three wolves dead in the zone bordering America’s first national park. We do not yet know if the wolves were adventurous, young males out on their own or if they were critical members of a family of Yellowstone wolves—perhaps even alpha females or males.
Montana’s cruel 2021 wolf hunt is championed not by the state’s wildlife management agency, but by wolf-hating forces in the Montana legislature.
The methods sanctioned by the legislature and signed into law by Montana’s wolf-killing Governor Greg Gianforte, include hunting with night vision scopes, strangulating snares, baiting of wolves, and bounties. These brutal means of slaughtering wolves harken back to another era, when wolves were eradicated from the landscape of the American West.
As the six-month wolf hunting season turns from fall to winter, the death toll will certainly rise as this catastrophe plays out. If the state of Montana fulfills its ambitions, the wolf killings won’t stop until the body count reaches 450—half of Montana’s entire wolf population. If a similar plan fueled by wolf hostility in Idaho meets its goal, 90% of the state’s wolves will be eradicated and the body count in the Northern Rockies could reach into the thousands.
I don’t like writing these words, but they are painfully true. I am sickened and heartbroken.
The hunts glorify cruelty, but they also reinforce a narrative built on lies. Montana and Idaho’s legislators lied to get these measures passed. They lied about wolves reducing opportunities to hunt deer and elk. They lied about the impact of wolves on animal agriculture. And they used their biggest lie of all, that wolves threaten children and people, to create and reinforce fear.
For years the rallying cry of hunters, so vehemently and violently opposed to wolves in the Northern Rockies, has been to ‘smoke a pack a day.’ That means they intend to use their high-powered rifles to kill an entire pack of wolves in one day.
That’s not just a cruel slogan—now, it’s public policy in Montana and Idaho.
There’s only one conclusion for the rational or compassionate among us. For iconic, charismatic species like wolves, who roam across state boundaries and even international borders, the states shouldn’t be calling the shots. Wolves are not only intrinsically valuable, they are part of a public trust that serves and benefits all Americans.
At our nation’s founding, the states were intended to be laboratories of the best form of governance. Instead, at their worst, they’ve become incubators for hate and violence that’s often built on a foundation of lies.
A brief ray of hope came on the same day the Montana hunt began, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said, in response to Endangered Species Act listing petitions from my organization and others, that wolves in the American West may warrant federal protections.
But that reprieve won’t come in time for countless wolves that will die this year. That’s why there needs to be a deeper reckoning amongst the wildlife profession and its leaders. There is something profoundly wrong when entire packs of Yellowstone wolves can be slaughtered a few feet outside Yellowstone National Park.
When hunters shot the first wolves of the Montana hunting season, there was individual glory. But I am almost certain that wolves howled in grief. I have heard these howls before on the nights after some of Yellowstone’s most iconic wolves lost alpha members to hunter’s bullets.
Though trophy hunters claim glory, I know millions of Americans will also collectively grieve for the loss of America’s wolves. We must use that grief to fuel our push to secure the protections that wolves now so desperately need.
Please write President Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and demand the Biden administration immediately restore Endangered Species Act protections to all gray wolves in the lower 48 states.
Over the past few years, tens of thousands of you have signed our petitions, sent letters, and called officials to demand protection for wolves. Thank you! Now, please stand with us again today and consider supporting Guardians’ Wolf Defense Fund. Together, we will secure a future for the gray wolf.
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Idaho’s new wolf killing law authorizing the slaughter of up to 90% of wolves in the state went into effect on July 1. Already trappers and hunters have brutally killed wolf pups in dens and entire families of wolves. It’s as bad as we imagined and likely will get worse.
Right now, Montana’s Fish & Wildlife Commission is charged with implementing new laws that expand the wolf trapping season, authorize strangulation snares, and allow bait to lure wolves and even hunting with night vision scopes. Once executed, the new laws could lead to thousands of wolves slaughtered across the northern Rockies in the coming months.
We, as Guardians, are working to stop the cruelty and bloodshed not only in Idaho and Montana, but across our nation.
Since January, we’ve been in court challenging the Trump administration’s delisting of gray wolves across most of the lower 48 states.
In May, we called on the Biden administration to immediately restore Endangered Species Act protections to gray wolves in the northern Rockies.
In June, we launched a campaign to overhaul state management of wolves, releasing planning guides and resources for management agencies, and creating advocacy tools and roadmaps for wolf advocates to demand change from the agencies that manage—and too often kill—wolves.
We’ll need your help—with both your actions and your financial support—if we are to succeed. One of the most impactful ways to bring about our vision for wolves is by joining our Wild Bunch with a sustaining monthly gift.
More than 500 Guardians just like you have already signed up as monthly donors. I invite you to join me, and them, as Wild Bunch sustaining members. For wolves. For coexistence. For our shared future.
This is a heart-wrenching story Carter Niemeyer shared on social media about the on-going persecution of wolves in Idaho at the hands of the state and federal government. Niemeyer retired in 2006 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service where he was the wolf recovery coordinator for Idaho. In 2010 he wrote his first memoir, Wolfer. He published his second collection of stories, Wolf Land, in March 2016.
After you read Carter Niemeyer’s account, please take action for wolves in the northern Rockies.
I’m providing a Facebook story of ongoing persecution of a public lands wolf pack called the Timberline wolves in Idaho. This is a true account beginning in August of 2003, when I trapped and radio collared an adult female wolf and ear tagged a pup north of Idaho City, Idaho, an hour drive north of Boise.
The pack was new and I had just discovered them. I watched two adult wolves cross the road in front of my truck one evening and howled up pups that night nearby. I set traps and camped, catching the adult female alongside a Forest Service Road. The male pup was too young to radio collar so I just clipped a tag in his ear and released him.
I reported the discovery to the US Fish and Wildlife Service where I worked and also communicated with Suzanne Stone, the regional representative for Defenders of Wildlife in Boise. Suzanne had a working relationship with Dick Jordan, who taught science at Timberline High School in Boise and was an advocate for wolves and gray wolf recovery. The two contacted me to see if the new pack could be named the Timberline Pack since the school mascot was the wolf – no problem!
The Timberline wolves have always lived on public lands – part of the Boise National Forest. They primarily survive by eating elk. Life for the wolves was good with the exception of one major problem—domestic sheep graze annually on Boise National Forest and wolves, along with other predators, sometimes kill sheep. A federal agency known as Wildlife Services are notified by livestock producers whenever predators killed sheep or cattle.
It wasn’t uncommon for some Timberline wolves to be killed by Wildlife Services to pay the price of preying on sheep. Wolves were removed from protection under the Endangered Species Act in Idaho and Montana in 2011. That opened the door to wolf hunting which added to the mortality of additional Timberline wolves. Then foothold trapping was permitted too. The Timberline pack has persisted for 18 years though constantly persecuted—native wolves killed for eating non-native domestic sheep on a public lands national forest.
I’ve kept track of the pack, more or less, over the years due to my personal connection to the founding members back in 2003. The wolves have been able to outsmart people and persist from one year to the next but life isn’t easy staying out of the gunsights, foothold traps and neck snares. In recent years the breeding female of the pack raised several litters of pups although she was missing one of her legs – she obviously survived a bullet, trap or snare.
Last year, she and her pack lived in the Grimes Creek area not far from Garden Valley, Idaho but were invaded by domestic sheep. Wildlife Services set traps, caught and radio collared one of the adult wolves – the capture wasn’t very professional since other wolf researchers in the area found the collared wolf along a trail laying in the hot sun on a 90 degree day – researchers saw to its welfare and it did survive.
Coincidentally, my wife Jenny and I were in the same area with out-of-town guests, the Bureau Chief for the LA Times and his fiancée, who had never heard wolves howl in the wild. The same day the wolf was trapped we unknowingly camped nearby and howled up the Timberline wolves and their puppies that night. Any night that a person can hear wolves is an experience of immense pleasure and a unique opportunity shared by few. Though the sky and forest were thick with smoke from nearby fires and the temperature unbearable, the wolves provided relief and a distraction from the discomforts of climate change. We indulged and recorded the howls with a parabolic cone.
I was distressed to know that Wildlife Services were out to destroy this pack on public land. but not surprised. I made some calls and complained – killing predators is a tradition and culture in Idaho and the institutions that promote predator control don’t respond to criticism and carry on with the support of the governor, legislature, Idaho Fish and Game and those that decry wolves eating wild prey like deer, elk and moose or killing the occasional domestic sheep or calf – business as usual.
Winter came and the Timberline wolves continued to live on the national forest lands but hunters and trappers continued to harass them even after Wildlife Services went home. The old three-legged female who led the pack for several years through all of the dangerous, human dominated terrain finally miscalculated and walked into a trappers snare – she died either by strangulation or a gunshot. The pack was at risk once more, as they have been for nearly two decades.
But Timberline rallied this spring and had another litter of pups. One big problem is that the new breeding pair were wearing at least one radio collar that revealed their whereabouts to Wildlife Services and Idaho Fish and Game. For wolf packs like Timberline who have a track record of killing livestock – those agencies mark them with collars – not for study – but for lethal removal whenever the agencies decide they want to…….
Fast forward to the spring of 2021, the wolves gave birth to at least four puppies on public land going about their business of being wolves. BUT the rules in Idaho have changed or become lax when it comes to wolves – wolves are vermin now. The state of Idaho wants wolf numbers dramatically reduced – from 1500 to, perhaps, 450……… No more quotas on the numbers a hunter or trapper can kill with traps, snares, guns, and even hound dogs or night scopes on their rifles…….. just about anything goes these days.
In fact, beginning around May 18, 2021, the powers-that-be decided the Timberline wolf pups should die at their den. A pre-emptive strike – kill the wolf pups before the adult wolves kill the sheep. Yes, Idaho has moved on from wolf recovery efforts to wolf removal – maybe the late 1800s and early 1900s all over again……. eliminate as many as possible!
At least four Timberline puppies were killed before their lives even began. They weren’t permitted to live because domestic livestock prevails in Idaho – even on public lands. These aren’t the first pups to die. Wildlife Services has been killing wolf pups in the past. And private individuals too – a litter of at least 8 pups died in their den in the Idaho Pandhandle this spring when only a few days old.
Did you know that bounties are being offered and paid for dead wolves in Idaho? Wolves can be killed year round and the wolf killers can collect from $650-$1000. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Idaho Fish and Game Commission are contributing to the bounty fund (but they call it an “incentive”)….. The bounty payments could certainly be extended to wolf pups too……. no exceptions that I am aware of………. all you need to be is callous enough to crawl in the den and kill them by bludgeoning or gunshot………
The two adult wolves have lost their pups but the mother wolf still revisits her den…….. wondering where her pups have gone….. her instincts telling her she needs to feed and nurse them but only the smell of something horrible lingers at the den site…….. the stench of humans……… the kind that even kill pups that haven’t experienced life….. I’ve seen and heard it all in my career.
Wildlife killing contests are cruel blood sport. They are massacre events with prizes given to whoever kills the most animals, the largest animal, and even the youngest animal. They run counter to any notion of ethical hunting. And there is no evidence that they serve any wildlife “management” purpose. On the contrary, they may exacerbate wildlife-livestock conflicts. You can help stop the carnage.
Many citizens are unaware that killing contests happen in the Silver State. To help get these contests banned in Nevada, we’ve made it easy for you to send a Letter to the Editor (LTE) to your local paper. Below, we have compiled talking points for you to use, as well as a list of local newspapers and guidance on how to submit LTEs.
As you know, there are a lot of arguments against wildlife killing contests. Feel free to use our talking points to craft your own letter. OR send an email to Chris Smith for a pre-written letter.
Wildlife Killing Contests…
…are cruel. These contests celebrate massacring native wildlife. They target young, weak, and helpless animals. They encourage children and adults to treat the natural world with disdain and disrespect.
…do not reduce wildlife-human or wildlife-livestock conflict. Killing predators can actually result in a ballooning population as they have larger litters of pups. Young animals without parents to teach hunting behaviors are more likely to resort to easy prey sources like livestock, trash, or even pets.
…are not hunting. Participants use unsporting tactics and technology to easily kill their targets, including spotlights, snares, bait, and electronic calling devices which mimic the distress call of a pack member and draw in wildlife.
…are wasteful. Animals are nearly always discarded after events. Often they are left to rot on public lands.
To submit a Letter to the Editor, choose an outlet to send your letter to. Below are online and print newspapers across Nevada that publish letters. Choose your local paper and/or submit to a statewide one. Note that some papers have strict word limits:
Las Vegas Sun – 250 Words
Reno-Gazette Journal– 300 Words
Nevada Appeal– 250 Words
Record-Courier– 500 Words
The Humboldt Sun- 300 words
Thank you for speaking up for Nevada wildlife! Together we can end wildlife killing contests.
Colorado, like most western states, was once a haven for an incredible array of wildlife including native carnivores like wolves, grizzly bears, Canada lynx, and wolverines. The government-sanctioned and funded war on wildlife over the last two centuries rendered many of these species either extinct in the Centennial State or barely hanging on. But, the past year has provided a glimmer of hope that times are changing as Colorado voters and decision-makers have begun to create a (hopefully) more hospitable place for wildlife.
The biggest sign of change—and a real reason for wildlife enthusiasts to be excited—is of course the passing of Proposition 114 in November of 2020. The ballot measure directs Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to bring the gray wolf back to Colorado, where it has been largely absent since the 1940s. How and where exactly reintroduction will happen is still up for much input and debate. And we can be sure that anti-wildlife interests will be fervent in advocating that wolves be hunted, trapped, lethally “managed,” and otherwise persecuted. Guardians will be there howling for wolves to be safe, protected, and bountiful enough to work their ecosystem magic across the state.
Another win for wildlife in Colorado that may have flown under the public radar, but that is critical for conservation: Governor Polis recently signed three bills into law to provide much-needed funding for CPW to protect the state’s diverse wildlife, habitat and park system. What’s particularly noteworthy about these new laws is that they will allow the general public to provide funding for wildlife conservation, not just hunters and anglers, who have historically paid for and directed state wildlife agencies.
The Keep Colorado Wild Pass Initiative, Wolf Reintroduction Funding With No License Fees, and Colorado State Parks and Public Lands Colorado Comeback Stimulus will all put public money into wildlife conservation efforts. These three pieces of legislation don’t wholly breakup the unholy grip that sportsmen have on CPW. But they are a start toward a wildlife agency that should be more accountable to the public—most of whom believe in the intrinsic value of wildlife and coexistence with wildlife—rather than a small subset of Coloradans.
Finally, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission appears to be getting more diverse both in terms of demographic representation and backgrounds and ideologies. Most wildlife and game commissions in the western U.S. are dominated by males, white people, hunters, and agricultural representatives. This dynamic is a symptom of broader history and, of course, funding. Since his election, Governor Polis has done well to change the status quo, appointing commissioners who might be considered outsiders and who better represent Colorado as a whole.
But it’s not all good news—it rarely is on the wildlife front! The amount of pushback that Commissioner Jay Tuchton—a seasoned and outspoken wildlife advocate—received during senate confirmation was a stark reminder that parts of Colorado are still stuck in a time when wildlife was the enemy and only hunters, trappers, and ranchers had a say in how CPW should deal with animals.
And a recent scandal helped illuminate how much of that antipathy towards wildlife, especially wolves, exists among CPW staff. JT Romatzke is a high-ranking agency official who was caught trying to undermine the wolf reintroduction effort and managed to keep his job—while a whistelblower lost his. Audio recordings of Romatzke outlining his subversion also indicate that he and other staffers are not ready for a new, modern CPW Commission. He is heard calling Commissioner Tutchton and Commissioner Taishya Adams “these people,” insinuating that they don’t belong making decisions for CPW. Commissioner Adams is a black woman and Commissioner Tutchton used to represent WildEarth Guardians to protect wildlife.
Leadership is changing, but CPW clearly still has a culture problem that will likely act as a roadblock for real wildlife progress. Mountain lions can now be hunted with the aid of electronic calls in certain parts of the state, a clear regression in policy. Colorado’s vaunted trapping ban is filled with loopholes. And transparency is a major issue as groups and journalists often face unreasonable hurdles to obtaining information that should be publicly available.
There is a lot of work to be done to ensure that Colorado continues to become more hospitable for once-persecuted native carnivores. But there are reasons to be optimistic thanks to Governor Polis and the current roster of CPW Commissioners. Together with you and our allies, WildEarth Guardians will continue working to ensure that wildlife is protected—and respected—in Colorado and throughout the American West.
Last spring, at the height of some of the most anxiety-ridden moments of the pandemic, my father read a poem to me over the phone. He’s 89 this year, and while he’s vibrant and healthy I don’t take for granted any opportunity to hear his voice — especially when he’s reciting a poem.
The poem, Mary Oliver’s Spring, describes the emergence of a black bear from its winter slumber. Oliver writes: “There is only one question: how to love this world.”
This spring, as bruins emerged across the American West, I found myself wondering about the secret lives bears lead. As their hunger grows, do they imagine eating trout from a Rocky Mountain stream?
Is it hunger pangs or some deeper yearning — perhaps to experience the new world – that drives bears from the comfort and warmth of their dens?
I’ve been thinking about bears and how to love their world because bear-management-practices have been in the spotlight recently, a light that intensified after two people were killed by bears, one in Montana and one in Colorado.
The death of those people was tragic. Yet, we must remember that fatal attacks remain rare. A bear does not wake up in the morning, pack a rifle, and set out to kill a human being. Bears struggle to survive in an increasingly diminishing wild that brings them in contact with humans more frequently.
Humanity’s mission, I believe, is not to kill them but to find ways to coexist.
On April 30, Montana Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a bill that allows hunters to use hounds to hunt black bears in the spring, when they’re with cubs and ravenous for food. This is the same governor who illegally trapped and killed one of Yellowstone’s iconic wolves.
One of the bills’ key sponsors, state Sen. Tom MacGillivray, offered a consistent refrain about bears: “Over the last seven, eight years we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in the whitetail population, and, interestingly enough, a dramatic increase in the black bear population,” he said. “This bill helps to balance that out.”
Not a shred of science supports this contention. There’s a long-standing war on carnivores and blaming bears is a convenient excuse for what ails the deer and the deer hunter’s world. In reality, a complex host of factors including habitat loss due to sprawl, climate change and other dynamics are to blame.
Meanwhile, in Colorado, a federal judge struck down a controversial plan supported by the state’s wildlife agency, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department, to “study” whether killing black bears — and mountain lions — would benefit mule deer. Sadly, the judge’s ruling denying federal funding of the bear-killing plan came too late for the dozens of Colorado bears that were killed in the study, one the agency’s scientists had to know was laden with anti-carnivore bias.
Though Colorado and Montana are worlds apart on the political spectrum, the hostility towards bears and other carnivores is a tie that binds, whether it originates in a state legislature or in the state agency charged with managing wildlife.
At a time when the attitudes of most Montanans, Coloradans and Americans at large are shifting dramatically to favor greater coexistence with fanged creatures, those in power over the lives of wild animals are digging in their heels. Instead of figuring out how to live with them, Montana and Colorado are making it easier to kill bears.
The word poetry comes from the Greek poetes, meaning “to create.” Whenever possible, I believe we should attempt to create opportunities for all life to thrive. It pains me that often those at the state level responsible for overseeing the management of wildlife seem to take more pleasure in the destruction of bears than in figuring out better ways for humans to coexist with them.
Wildlife management needs a new reason to exist, one that isn’t based on killing. Its mission might read like this: We aim to protect wildlife, making no distinction between predator and prey. We aim to enhance that sense of wonder most of us experience when we see animals in the wild.
And instead of taking more courses in traditional wildlife management, the profession might consider including reading some of the best American poetry inspired by nature and the creatures that depend on still-wild places.
They could start with Mary Oliver’s Spring.
This piece originally was published by Writers on the Range, an independent nonprofit dedicated to spurring lively conversation about the West.
The rugged Centennial Mountains on the Idaho-Montana border are inhabited by grizzly bears, wolves, bighorn sheep, sage grouse, and other vulnerable wildlife.
Unfortunately, the Centennial Mountains are also home to the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station, an anachronistic domestic sheep “experiment” plunked in the middle of these wild public lands, which makes it a dangerous—and too often deadly—place for imperiled native wildlife.
It’s way beyond time to stop experimenting with domestic sheep in the Centennial Mountains, so please contact Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and demand he repurposes the Sheep Station to protect wildlife.
WildEarth Guardians and our allies recently scored a victory in federal court that gives hope to the native wildlife dependent on the Centennial Mountains. The judge ruled against a U.S. Department of Agriculture decision to graze domestic sheep in and around the Sheep Station. The all-important question remains whether the federal government will now recognize that this ecologically-detrimental Sheep Station has long outlived its purpose.
Founded over 100 years ago, when domestic sheep production had a much larger national importance, the Sheep Station is a dangerous place for native wildlife. The Sheep Station presents dangers such as domestic sheep transmitting fatal pneumonia to native bighorn sheep herds and likely hostility towards grizzly bears—such as in 2012 when an illegally killed grizzly bear’s radio collar was found tucked beneath a log in a stream on the Sheep Station.
It’s long overdue for the federal government to honestly assess the impacts to the region’s iconic wildlife against the minimal value the domestic Sheep Station provides. The Centennial Mountains are a critical wildlife corridor, connecting the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to other wild public lands to the north and west, and the Sheep Station therefore threatens wildlife populations far beyond this remote mountain range.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack already in his first term under the Obama administration acknowledged that the Sheep Station no longer makes sense. Now, for the sake of the many populations of wildlife dependent on these remote mountains, it is time to stop the dangerous experiment in this important habitat.
Take action today and demand that Secretary Vilsack repurpose the Sheep Station to protect bighorns, grizzlies, wolves, and sage grouse.
On May 6, Idaho Governor Brad Little signed a gray wolf extermination bill into law that allows hunters, trappers—and even paid private contractors—to slaughter up to 90% of the wolves in Idaho.
The new law permits the killing of wolves by various cruel and unethical means, including night hunting with night-vision equipment, aerial gunning, and hunting from snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles. In addition to letting individuals kill as many wolves as they want, the new law authorizes year-round wolf trapping on private lands, including during the season when pups and females are most vulnerable.
This new Idaho wolf extermination law is only possible because ten years ago this month federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections were stripped from gray wolves in Idaho, Montana, eastern Washington, eastern Oregon, and northern Utah via a rider attached by U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) to a must-pass budget bill.
This undemocratic move a decade ago—which blocked any judicial review of the rider—opened the floodgates for widespread wolf killing in the northern Rockies. Over the past few years, state “management” of wolves in the northern Rockies has included Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG) hiring a professional hunter-trapper to go into the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness to slaughter wolves and IDFG conducting aerial gunning operations to butcher wolves in some of the most remote roadless federal wildlands remaining in the lower-48 states.
More recently—during a 12-month period—hunters, trappers, and state and federal agencies killed 570 wolves in Idaho, including at least 35 wolf pups. The state of Idaho also allows a $1,000 “bounty” paid to trappers per dead wolf, including wolves killed deep within some of America’s largest and wildest Wilderness areas.
The dire situation for wolves in Montana is much the same. Fresh off revelations that Governor Greg Gianforte did not have a valid license when he trapped and shot a collared Yellowstone wolf, Gov Gianforte has signed numerous draconian bills to slaughter more wolves. New barbaric laws in Montana allow hunters and trappers to kill an unlimited number of wolves, allow a wolf “bounty,” extend the wolf-trapping season, permit strangulation neck snares, and authorize night-time hunting of wolves on private lands and baiting of wolves.
The vicious situation facing wolves in Montana and Idaho proves that the gray wolf still needs federal ESA protections. As we warned ten years ago, state “management” of wolves essentially amounts to the brutal state-sanctioned eradication of this keystone species.
WildEarth Guardians and our allies filed a lawsuit ten years ago in an attempt to overturn this undemocratic, spiteful wolf rider because we believed the wolf delisting rider violated the U.S. Constitution. While our lawsuit wasn’t successful because Congress simply closed the courthouse doors, the on-going attempts to decimate wolf populations in Idaho and Montana warrant national outrage and action.
State ‘management’ of wolves in Idaho and Montana harkens back to an era when people sought to exterminate wolves altogether, and nearly succeeded. These types of actions were not only deplorable in the early 1900s, but they have zero place in science-based management of a keystone species in 2021, especially in the midst of dual nature and climate crises.
President Biden, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, and Congress must take immediate action to restore federal Endangered Species Act protections for all gray wolves in the lower 48 states—including in the northern Rockies—before it’s too late.
We must not abandon wolf-recovery efforts or allow anti-wolf states, hunters, and trappers to push these iconic species back to the brink of extinction.
Earlier this year, I had the great opportunity to join a productive discussion on the links between wildlife trafficking and public health hosted by Eddie Estrada of the Endangered Species Coalition.
I joined staff from newly-elected Senator Ben Ray Lujan’s office and from Senator Martin Heinrich’s office to discuss ”The Preventing Future Pandemics Act” and learn how this bipartisan bill, sponsored by John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), is an important step toward preventing future zoonotic epidemics and diseases like the Covid-19.
As Estrada, who hails from Anthony, New Mexico, explained, “This piece of legislation would not only prohibit the exportation and importation of live wildlife species for human consumption and medicinal purposes, but would also end all exploitation of live wildlife trafficking in the U.S.”
This is a bill with teeth. In Estrada’s words, “This legislation would require a study to increase the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services commitment to combat trafficking and improve global enforcement laws.” Estrada emphasized that this act is driven by “an urgent need for a global approach,” which requires bipartisan support from congressional leaders to local leaders in rural communities.
As a part of the discussion, I was able to share how wildlife exploitation has hit home for me. Just this past November, a man taking a stroll through the deserts of Santa Teresa discovered a pile of rotted carnage. What he first thought was a pile of dead dogs, turned out to be a pile of skinned coyotes—roughly 40 dead song dogs. Each coyote had signs of leghold traps. Although skinning and killing coyotes for their fur is not a crime, dumping coyotes certainly is. As of now, no one has been held accountable for this heinous crime.
We have made strides, but still have work to do to prevent such crimes from happening again. In 2019, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed SB 76, which banned coyote killing contests in New Mexico. In doing so, the Land of Enchantment joined seven other states, including our sister states Arizona and Colorado. Even more recently, WildEarth Guardians and the TrapFree New Mexico coalition succeeded in passing Roxy’s Law, which will ban public lands trapping across New Mexico.
But more needs to be done. And the Preventing Future Pandemics Act can help.
Each year, thousands and thousands of native wildlife across the U.S. are killed and skinned for their fur, and sold to other parts of the world, where low-wage processing shops then sell the processed fur to the buyers in the fashion industry for a profit. This practice is inhumane and cruel, which alone is enough to fight to protect wildlife. But now more than ever, the health of people and the health of wildlife and our planet are interconnected. In order to help ourselves, we need to end the exploitation of wildlife.
My name is Cruzer and last month, my mom, dad, and partner, Chaco, were hiking in the Santa Fe National Forest together. Chaco and I were just doing our dog thing—running, marking trees, sniffing everything…and then it happened. I got caught in a leg trap. Boy, did it ever hurt, and did I ever scream! Dad got me out after a few hectic minutes but I would hate for another dog, wild animal, or a small human to go through this experience. I was pretty sore for a few days and limped about, but I’m O.K. now. We have to ban traps on public lands.
(This true story was recently shared with us by WildEarth Guardians member, Dennis Parker)
After years of public education, coalition building, lobbying politicians, advocating, and fighting for justice, New Mexico’s public lands will finally be free of traps, snares, and poisons. Yippee! On April 5, 2021, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed “Roxy’s Law,” legislation banning those cruel devices that have caused countless agonizing deaths of animals, wild and domestic, throughout New Mexico.
WildEarth Guardians worked tirelessly for more than a decade to ban traps and poisons on public lands. These dangerous and indiscriminate devices are deeply inhumane and have no place on public lands, whether they harm family pets like Cruzer or lead to fates far worse—not just in New Mexico but across the country.
We committed. We demanded. We organized. And now New Mexico joins only four other states across the country that have passed similar trapping bans on public lands. Roxy’s Law will set the precedent for other states to follow suit and start listening to their citizens, who overwhelmingly abhor trapping and animal cruelty. Guardians will continue to fight for the voiceless and bring to light the importance of ending the use of traps, snares, and poisons on all of America’s public lands.
This Guardians victory came about because we are committed to the vision of cruelty-free and biodiverse public lands—and we’ll need you by our side for the long haul every step of the way to be successful.
It has taken years of steady and consistent action and pressure to get this win in New Mexico. And it will take many more years of action and pressure to see more change across the country.
We pledge to continue fighting for the voiceless and pushing for ethical co-existence with wildlife. We will no doubt have setbacks, but together we can end all trapping on public lands in the American West. We will need your voice, your actions, and your financial support to get it done.
One of the most impactful ways to support our work is by becoming a sustaining monthly supporter and signing up to make a recurring $10, $25, $50, or $100 monthly donation. Over 500 Guardians have already signed up to do just this, and I invite you to join me, and them, as Wild Bunch sustaining members.
Together, we can make ALL public lands safe and enjoyable for recreationists and wildlife. We appreciate your ongoing support.