By Miriam Raftery
August 12, 2013 (Julian) – Erin Hunt, general manager of the California Wolf Center in Julian, is concerned that the federal government is “stacking the deck” by excluding wolf experts from participating in a peer review of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal to remove grey wolves from protection as federal endangered species in all lower 48 states. Delisting is proposed even in areas where wolf populations remain at risk, wildlife experts warn.
Public comments are being accepted until September 11 on the controversial proposal. The California Wolf Center has details at www.californiawolfcenter.org and comments may be submitted to Sally Jewell, secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior which oversees the USFW, here.
Sixteen scientists have signed a letter accusing the USFW of misrepresenting their conclusions to justify the delisting of wolves from the federal endangered species list.
“Given the importance of wolves and the fact that they have only just begun to recover in some regions and not at all in others , we hope you will reconsider the Service’s proposal to remove protections across most of the United States,” the scientists’ letter concludes.
Now, three scientists who signed that letter critiquing the scientific arguments of the plan have been prohibited by the USFW from participating in a peer-review of the proposal. On August 8, California Wolf Center interviewed one of the excluded wolf experts, Dr. John Vucetich, and created a slideshow with audio:
“This is important because the Service's proposal to delist wolves has been criticized by conservationists, scientists and the public as being premature and cherry-picking the science,” Hunt said. “Now the Service seems to be protecting its flawed proposal from legitimate critique - effectively stacking the deck of what should be an independent peer review process.”
A recent national poll by Public Policy Polling has demonstrated that the majority of American support continued protections for wolves. Fully 68% said that wolves should be given a chance to play their role in nature. Only 31% would favor taking away federal protections.
Nationally, less than 6,500 wild wolves remain, less than 1% of their original numbers.
The push for removing protections from wolves has come largely from special interests such as ranchers who contend that wolves pose threats to livestock, as well as from hunters seeking to kill wolves for sport or pelts.
The California Wolf Center is dedicated to the recovery of wolves in the wild lands where they once roamed. The group supports not only reintroducing wolves into their former habitat, but also provides financial help to ranchers to cohabitate with wolves—such as paying for wolf-proof fencing, herding dogs and even human range patrols to protect livestock.
The Julian facility has helped bring back Mexican gray wolves from the brink of extinction. At one point, just seven unrelated Mexican gray wolves were left in the wild. Today, thanks to captive breeding and reintroduction in Arizona and New Mexico, 75 Mexican gray wolves are now living in the wild. While Mexican gray wolves would remain protected even if the delisting occurs, other gray wolves would be at risk.
Hunt warns that without federal protection, regulation of wolves will be left to the states. While some provide protections, others do not. Wolves could be shot, trapped, hunted, or even gunned down from helicopters if removed from protection as federally endangered species.
Unlike their canine cousins, coyotes, wolves need wilderness areas and have not adapted to survive in urban areas. Thus their range is fragmented.
Wolves once ranged throughout California, but were hunted to extinction in the 1920s. Very recently, the first wild wolf in nearly a century has been seen in northern California, believed to have roamed across the Oregon border.
Large predators play a vital role in ecosystems, wildlife experts say, by preventing overgrazing and overpopulation of ungulates such as deer and elk.
For more information, visit www.californiawolfcenter.org