Speak up for Wolves: Sign the Petition!
The Mexican gray wolf, or lobo, is one of the most endangered carnivores in the world. After lobos were nearly wiped out, reintroduction began in 1998 in remote areas of New Mexico and Arizona. Since then, recovery has been slow and turbulent. In 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) decided that the only wild population of Mexican gray wolves in the U.S. was not essential to the recovery of Mexican gray wolves as a species. Guardians and our allies sued, and in 2018, a U.S. district judge told USFWS to go back to the drawing board to write a new management rule for the lobo. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently seeking comments on that new Mexican wolf management rule. This is our last chance to make sure the agency gets recovery right, so please submit your comment!
Tweet for Lobos!
We’ve assembled eight ready-to-go tweets, complete with inspiring images and a link to the petition. All you have to do is “grab-n-go” to help raise awareness and make a big difference in the defense of the lobos! P.S. These work great on Facebook, too!
#Wolves keep the Gila wild! Celebrate the 97th anniversary of the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico by urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Gila’s most iconic resident—the critically endangered Mexican #wolf: https://guardiansaction.org/lobos #KeepItWild #StopExtinction
Lobos are essential! Mexican gray #wolves are critical ecosystem influencers in the desert Southwest. They keep prey populations healthy and in balance, protect riparian and aquatic resources, and indicate the health of entire ecosystems. Take action: https://guardiansaction.org/lobos
Humans are the largest obstacle to recovering Mexican #wolves. Along with illegal trapping, poaching and vehicular mortalities, politically motivated ‘recovery’ plans have put lobos in a precarious position. Take action to help get #wolf recovery right: https://guardiansaction.org/lobos
Real recovery for Mexican #wolves would include three distinct, but connected populations. Along with lobos‘ current range in the Greater Gila Bioregion, the Grand Canyon area and the Southern Rockies are identified as prime habitat. Help make it happen: https://guardiansaction.org/lobos
Mexican #wolves in the wild are, on average, as related as brothers and sisters. Though lobos numbers are slowly increasing, the greatest indicator of a successful #wolf recovery effort is the genetic health of the wild population. Support real recovery: https://guardiansaction.org/lobos
To truly recover Mexican gray #wolves a new management rule should be based on the best available science and prioritize enhancing the genetic diversity of the wild lobo population. Raise your voice to make sure Mexican #wolf recovery is done right: https://guardiansaction.org/lobos
Did you know that the Mexican gray wolf, or lobo, is the most endangered gray #wolf in North America and one of the most endangered carnivores in the world? Tell the @USFWS we need a new management rule that will actually recover Mexican #wolves: https://guardiansaction.org/lobos
Almost a century after Aldo Leopold shot a Mexican #wolf in the Gila, only 186 of these wolves exist in the wild. The fierce green fire he saw in the wolf’s eyes still flickers in the #wolves who roam the Greater Gila today. Help support full recovery: https://guardiansaction.org/lobos
Amplify YOUR Voice for Wolves: Write a Letter to the Editor
Letters to the editor (LTE) are a great way to share your perspective and encourage others to speak up for lobos. It’s easy, fast, and effective—all you have to do is write your short perspective on why wolves deserve more protections and why the southwest needs more wolves. Be sure to mention that U.S. Fish and Wildlife is taking public comments on wolf management right now and comments can be submitted here: https://guardiansaction.org/lobos
You can submit your letter to your local outlet, or if you are not from the region, submit it to a statewide outlet. Here are direct links to submission forms, note that different papers have different word count limits.
- Albuquerque Journal
- Santa Fe New Mexican
- Las Cruces Sun-News
- Silver City Daily Press
- Silver City Sun-News
- El Defensor-Chieftain (Socorro, NM)
- Sierra County Sentinel (Sierra County, NM)
- Arizona Daily Star
- Arizona Republic (Tucson area)
- East Valley Tribune (Phoenix area)
- Arizona Daily Sun (Flagstaff area)
- White Mountain Independent (White Mountain area – closest to wolf country)
- Pinal Central (Casa Grande area)
- Daily Courier (Prescott area)
LTE Talking Points: Here are key elements of a new lobo management rule that will help truly recover and restore Mexican wolves to their historic range. Please use these talking points as a guideline for drafting your individual LTE, but what’s most important is that your voice and your reason for wanting lobo recovery come through. So, please speak in your own words, but make sure to emphasis the fact that a new Mexican wolf management rule must:
Rescue Mexican wolves from a genetic bottleneck
- A real genetic rescue entails releasing adult wolf pairs with pups until the wild population of lobos demonstrates adequate genetic diversity improvements. Releasing a set, limited number of wolves into the wild is not a real genetic objective—very few wolves who reach breeding age actually contribute their genes to the wild population.
Allow lobos to roam throughout their historic range
- Preventing wolves from crossing arbitrary political boundaries like Interstate 40 is unacceptable. In order to truly recover, Mexican wolves need access to suitable habitat in the southern Rockies and the Grand Canyon region.
Designate lobos as “essential”
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated the only wild population of Mexican wolves in the U.S. as “non-essential” to the recovery of the species in the wild. Designating this population as “essential” is common sense and crucial to recovery.
Reduce wolf-livestock conflict
- Wolves are native carnivores highly adapted to the desert southwest. They should not bear the burden of livestock-wildlife conflict when non-native cows are grazing on public lands without protection.
On the December 21 winter solstice —the darkest day of the year—Montana wildlife officials opened additional areas to wolf trapping across the state, including in wilderness areas and public lands bordering Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park.
This decision is sickening, and yet it doesn’t even begin to describe the whole horrific situation that imperiled wolves and grizzly bears have faced all year in Montana. And the stakes are only getting more dangerous as a long, cold winter descends.
This year’s start of the wolf trapping season was delayed in parts of western Montana to give grizzly bears more time to safely reach their dens. Despite this, threatened species like grizzlies were not spared from the brutality of indiscriminate trapping.
Earlier this fall, a family of grizzly bears living near Glacier National Park stumbled upon two traps—baited with a dead fox—that a trapper set to kill coyotes. The traps snapped shut, gripping tightly around the feet of two bears. Wildlife managers were able to dart and release one bear, but it’s believed the other trap may remain on the second grizzly bear’s foot. Trapping is a disgusting practice—using a dead fox to bait a trap just makes it more atrocious.
Grizzly bears and wolves need our help, otherwise more and more will suffer this same fate.
By New Year’s Eve, wolf trapping will be opened statewide to satisfy the bloodlust of Montana’s Republican governor and state legislators, who are intent on brutally slaughtering up to 450 wolves—40 percent of the state’s wolf population—in just six months. Forty percent!
Thankfully, most grizzly bears should be denned up by then. Grizzly Bear 399—the world’s most famous mama bear, pictured above—recently made it safely into her Greater Yellowstone den with her four cubs. Sadly, a den is no refuge for some of Yellowstone’s most famous wolf packs. Fifteen Yellowstone wolves have already been slaughtered this year, including seven from the Junction Butte pack, the most-watched wolf pack in the park.
Winter is a time for nesting, denning, and reflecting. The winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year, but it also marks a return of the light.
At WildEarth Guardians, we want to end the year focusing on gratitude and all the successes we accomplished together for wildlife and wild places. But we can’t shy away from telling the dark stories that continue to happen. We are standing up against these injustices and for the beauty and wildness that still remain.
Above all, nature is cyclical and we know that our fight to protect the natural world will contain both moments of despair and darkness and moments of exhilaration and exuberance. Just as the winter descends, spring will also rise.
In a few months, Grizzly Bear 399 and her four cubs will emerge from their den. Let’s do everything in our power to ensure that the world they walk out into is one that values coexistence and reveres the cycle of life.
When you think of America’s congressionally designated wilderness areas, what comes to mind?
Intact ecosystems teeming with native wildlife and wild places, where people can find solace and solitude in an increasingly fast-paced world? Or aerial gunning, poisoning, and trapping of native wildlife?
The answer should be clear. But unfortunately, the federal wildlife-killing program known as Wildlife Services uses our tax dollars to deploy neck snares, foothold traps, “cyanide bombs,” and sharpshooters in helicopters to kill hundreds of thousands of native animals on public lands—even in protected wilderness areas.
We have waged a relentless battle to end this war on wildlife. Over the last five years, litigation against the USDA Wildlife Services by WildEarth Guardians and our allies has resulted in legal victories in Idaho, Wyoming, California, Nevada, Oregon, Montana, and Washington—each of them curbing the program’s slaughter of native wildlife and increasing its accountability to the public.
But we aren’t resting until we end this rogue program’s war on wildlife once and for all.
Earlier this month, Guardians and Western Watersheds Project launched a lawsuit challenging Wildlife Services’ expansion of aerial gunning, poisoning, trapping, and shooting of bobcats, foxes, coyotes, mountain lions, beavers, and other wildlife on public lands across Nevada, including the potential for killing wildlife on over six million acres of wilderness and wilderness study areas.
With your help and your support, we will have the financial resources we need in 2022 and beyond to defend vulnerable wildlife and ensure that public lands are a refuge for native animals. Can I count on your donation today? As an added bonus, your donation will be matched by another generous supporter.
While society has evolved to understand the importance of native species as a key part of ecosystems and the need for coexistence with wildlife, Wildlife Services continues to rely on antiquated practices from a bygone era when many animals were pushed to the brink of extinction. We demand better from the federal government.
Public lands across the American West are critical for preserving biodiversity and enabling native ecosystems to thrive—they are meant to be wildlife havens, not slaughtering grounds. We must not let the federal government use our tax dollars to slaughter the very creatures that epitomize the wildness of these landscapes.
With your help, we will achieve even more in 2022 to stop Wildlife Services in its tracks! Help fuel our continued fight for coexistence in the new year by making a MATCHED gift of $50, $100, $250 or more to Guardians today.
In February, while investigating a mortality signal from a wolf collar, Oregon state troopers found the dead bodies of the entire Catherine Wolf Pack, three males and two females. A whole family brutally murdered, likely at the hands of one or a few people.
Tragically, this was just the start of a series of disturbing and still unsolved deaths. In the past five months, police have recovered the bodies of eight wolves in eastern Oregon, all poisoned.
Now the police, having exhausted all leads, are turning to us for help to find the perpetrators of this crime. WildEarth Guardians and our partners are offering a $43,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of a person or persons in the deliberate fatal poisoning of these wolves.
Offering this reward is one critical way we can bring justice for wolves. We are also fighting in court and pressuring the Biden administration. Please donate today to our Wolf Defense Fund so that we can secure the future of the gray wolf.
With your help, we’ve spent the past year working to protect wolves and endangered wildlife across the country. We’ve seen progress, to be sure—in October Guardians successfully forced Montana to restrict wolf snaring on millions of acres of public lands—but there is still so much work to be done. Any day now, a decision could come down in our national litigation challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s reckless decision to strip gray wolves of Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection across the lower 48.
We’re also planning for the future and turning our attention to Colorado, where, thanks to a people-powered ballot initiative, the state must reintroduce gray wolves by the end of 2023. Colorado has only the next two years to develop a reintroduction and management plan for wolves, and that means Guardians has a job to do. We must ensure this plan includes the highest protections for wolves, so that entire wolf families aren’t killed in the face of the slightest opposition.
Anyone with information about the eastern Oregon wolf poisonings should contact the Oregon State Police Tip Line at (800) 452-7888 or email TIP@state.or.us. Callers may remain anonymous.
For people outside of Oregon or without information to share, you can help us spread the word about this heinous crime. The more people who are aware of this, the more likely it is that Oregon police receive critical information to catch the perpetrator before more wolves are lost.
We are sickened, outraged, and heartbroken by this crime. And we are committed to this fight for the long run.
In 2015, WildEarth Guardians, Alliance for the Rockies, and Friends of the Wild Swan—represented by attorney Matt Bishop at the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC)—entered into a settlement agreement with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MTFWP) to ensure that appropriate protection measures would be implemented to avoid the incidental killing of Canada lynx in the state.
Notably, the settlement agreement provided that snares should not be permitted in two designated lynx recovery zones, areas that represent a significant chunk of western and southwestern Montana, including areas outside of Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park.
In August 2021, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission—clearly ignoring the terms of the settlement—issued new regulations for the killing of wolves that not only expanded trapping in the state but, for the first time, allowed for the use of snares to kill wolves throughout the state.
In late September 2021, our attorney from WELC sent a letter to the state of Montana informing it that its new regulations on wolf snaring were in defiance of this lynx legal settlement. We also threatened to renew litigation if changes were not made immediately. In response, in late October, the Montana Fish and Commission was forced to update its wolf regulations and not allow wolf snaring on public lands in two large regions of Montana where wolves reside, generally the expansive public lands south and west of Glacier National Park and north of Yellowstone National Park (see map below). This late re-convening of the Commission and issuance of the new rule came about as a direct result of our 2015 settlement and our threats to sue the state of Montana for its clear breach of settlement terms.
As a result of our 2015 settlement, and tenacity in ensuring its terms were continued to be followed by the state, Guardians and our allies were able to secure a huge, impactful win for wolves on the ground in Montana right now. Distribution maps indicate that many of the wolves in Montana live in the “designated lynx recovery zone” areas.
As snaring is one of the easiest (and cruelest) ways for hunters to kill wolves, the late regulatory change—a month in advance of trapping season—will, undoubtedly, save the lives of hundreds of wolves this year. While we continue to fight on multiple fronts to relist wolves in the Northern Rockies, thanks to the creative strategic decisions made by WELC, in partnership with Guardians, Alliance for the Rockies, and Friends of the Wild Swan, we are able to have some on-the-ground impact for wolves this year.
This is just another example of how we are leaving no stone unturned to save the gray wolf. And we can’t do this work without you. We’re extremely grateful that over 8,700 Guardians members and supporters spoke up this summer when the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission was accepting public comments. You and your fellow Guardians have also given generously to our Wolf Defense Fund, providing us with the critical resources needed to wage this battle for wolves in the courts, in Washington, D.C., and at the state level across the West. Together, we will save wolves.
My activist side made its first strong appearance in my life after I learned about industrial fishing as a senior in high school in Littleton, Colorado. As I researched ocean conservation for my senior project, I couldn’t believe what I was learning. For example, a longline, which is one method of large-scale fishing, stretches for two or three miles and is covered in thousands of hooks that kill non-target species like dolphins, turtles, seabirds, and sharks as it is dragged through the open ocean. Shark finning (imagine a shark being hauled out of the water and having its fins sliced off and then being tossed back into the water to drown or be eaten alive) accounts for up to 100 million sharks killed annually. Fin meat fetches a high price (at least $300 or $400 per pound), making it economically disadvantageous to lug an entire body back to land when one can just cut off the fins. I didn’t know much then, but I knew at a gut level that this wasn’t right.
Learning about the need for environmental advocacy as a teenager changed the entire course of my life. Getting involved in advocacy at a young age gave me direction and purpose; it connected me more to my community, from the people down my street to the people across the world. In my family, I earned the nickname “captain environment.” At the time, I had no idea that ten years in the future I would be a lawyer with WildEarth Guardians, using the law to give a voice to the voiceless and protect our wildlife, our wildlands, our water, our atmosphere, and our air.
My journey was windy and uncertain, but my passion never wavered. Every step was somehow connected to the bigger question always in my mind: how can we protect the planet long-term? In the intervening years between the start of my advocacy at 17 and law school, I worked as a side-walk fundraiser with Greenpeace, at a few vegetarian cafés, in an analytical laboratory, traveled the world working on small farms, and became a professional scuba diver. Each adventure helped me connect to the planet in a new way, and to different people and cultures. I wanted to understand how others interacted with the natural world and figure out how to communicate with them effectively. I attended protests, created petitions, made speeches at rallies, created advocacy-based Halloween costumes (my favorite was a Zom-bee, raising awareness for the plight of bees), and talked to people in my community about the small actions we can each take every day to help.
The outrage I felt senior year of high school when I learned about the pillaging of our oceans led me to a degree in Marine Science in Hawai`i. I wanted to be an ocean advocate more than anything, but I wasn’t sure how to do it. I thought science was the way but after four years knew that was not my path—I was frustrated with where I felt science ended and where policy-making began. Three years later, I ended up at Lewis and Clark Law School getting a degree in environmental law. I had no idea what I was doing—I barely understood how the government functioned. But I used the skills I had been cultivating. I networked, I got to know the people who were doing what I wanted to do, I learned and researched, and this led me to WildEarth Guardians.
My work with Guardians started during my second year of law school. I attended an event and met the Wildlife Coexistence Campaigner for Guardians. I offered to volunteer my time, and she took me under her wing and quickly introduced me to our Wildlife program litigator. My work with them included helping with a legal complaint focused on protecting several imperiled fish in Colorado, doing research for other wildlife lawsuits, attending hearings at the state capital building, and lobbying state representatives for pro-wildlife legislation. I learned about the opaque federal agency called Wildlife Services that wholesale kills our native wildlife, reminiscent of the destruction caused by longline fishing. I read the data about our federal government killing hundreds of thousands of animals annually, and again, I felt outraged—how could this be happening?
WildEarth Guardians is suing Wildlife Services all over the west because Guardians knows that this should not be happening. Working as a lawyer with Guardians gives me the chance to be a voice for the voiceless, and that is why I came back as a legal fellow after graduating from law school. I knew when I was 17 years old that there was no path for me other than one where I stand up to the powers that be and say this isn’t right.
If you are reading this and you have ever felt the outrage I am talking about, and had the urge to scream, “this isn’t right!” I want you to know that the path of environmental advocacy does not need to be traditional, does not need to be linear, does not need to be your career, and does not require fancy degrees. Environmental advocacy can be a conversation in a living room with a friend about something that matters to you, it can be attending a protest or sharing information on social media. It can be becoming ‘captain environment’ in your household and telling someone not to leave the water running in the sink. We are environmental advocates because of what it means to each of us individually, and your unique individual contribution is what the world needs, however and whenever that takes shape.
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.