Thursday, March 13, 2014

Wolf Ethics

Delisting Wolves

On April 15, 2011, President Obama signed Public Law 112-10, The Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011.  One section of this act required the Secretary of the Interior to reissue the final rule, previously published in 2009, delisting gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the Northern Rocky Mountain DPA. Wyoming was temporarily exempted.  

This ruling took effect on May 5, 2011. It was the first time in the history of the ESA that protections were eliminated by politicians rather than scientists, setting a dangerous precedent for managing controversial species in the future. As a result of the ruling, wolves in Montana, Idaho, eastern Washington, eastern Oregon, and Utah were federally delisted and would be managed by the respective states going forward

 In June, 2013, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) published its proposal to delist the gray wolf from the federal Endangered Species Act.  Although a number of wildlife protection organizations have filed suits against the USFWS to relist wolves on the ESA, as of the time of this writing, it has not happened.  Consequently, thousands of wolves have been killed since 2011 by hunting, trapping, poisoning, snaring and aerial shooting.

Attitudes Toward Wolves

There is an ugly hatred toward wolves that fuels the desire to eliminate them from the landscape.  This is exactly how wolves were extirpated from most of the United States by the early 20th century.  The wolf debate is both political and complicated.  Although some attitudes can be changed with education, many are more deeply ingrained values that have been passed on from generation to generation.

Wolves have historically been used as a scapegoat for bigger issues.  They have been blamed for the loss of agricultural animals, when in reality they have been responsible for less than .25% of cattle depredations.  According to a 2010 report from the United States Department of Agriculture, the majority of cattle deaths typically occur due to disease and weather, not native carnivores and dogs WildEarth Guardians.

Non-Lethal Methods of Wolf Management

There are successful programs in place to minimize farm animal deaths due to wolves.  One of these programs is The Wood River Wolf Project in Idaho .  Defenders of Wildlife works with sheep producers and federal agents to non-lethally stop the wolf predations.  There are many methods of non-lethal management that have proven to be successful.   It will take a willingness from all stakeholders to come to the table and work together in a fair, non-judgmental and compromising manner to successfully resolve this highly charged issue.

Ethics vs. Science

The controversies over wolf management revolve around ethics and less about science. Biologically, wolves can and will exist throughout the world without the interference of humans.  It is the human tolerance for wolves that is their limiting factor.  It then becomes a moral issue as to whether we value wolves in our environment or not.  And if so, how will we treat them? Wolves present a litmus test, if you will, for the moral ethics of human beings.  If we choose not to treat them fairly and kindly, what does that say about our ethics?

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