Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Manage huckleberries by killing bears?

| August 2, 2022 1:00 AM

I read with interest the letter to the editor (Daily Bee, July 26, 2022) authored by Justin Webb, executive director of Sandpoint's Foundation for Wildlife Management. This organization is a "501c3 non-profit organization whose mission is to promote ungulate population recovery in areas negatively impacted by wolves." They accomplish their mission by reimbursing hunters who kill wolves.

As I stated in my previous letter to the editor in the Bee, in Idaho each hunter can kill an unlimited number of wolves as long as they have purchased a corresponding number of tags with no restrictions on HOW they are killed. Justin Webb maintains that Montana, Idaho, the Eastern third of Washington and Oregon and a portion of Utah are grossly overpopulated with wolves. Even if this was true, how is killing wolves without a limit "management?" When there are no limits set, how does the wolf survive this mass killing? A comparison would be killing orcas to manage salmon, or killing bears to manage huckleberries.

Also why are the wolves alone being blamed for ungulate population decline? According to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game climate change and reduced forage are also to blame for the decline in ungulates. Might climate change be causing some modifications in ungulate migration behaviors? Might lower snow covering cause moose especially, to be more susceptible to high tick abundance?

Why go after wolves indiscriminately and call it "management?" In fact, often wolves go after individual ungulates that are in poor body condition, weak and small. Doesn't that help keep the ungulate population stronger (survival of the fittest)? Hunters go after individual ungulates that are trophy and strong, robust animals. It doesn't seem that hunters and wolves are in competition over the same animals.

As far as ranchers being impacted by wolf predation according to the USDA it was found that wolves killed 4,948 cattle (2015) and sheep (2014) from an inventory of 13.6 million. In other words, wolves killed 0.04 percent of the cattle and sheep inventories in the Northern Rocky Mountain states and were allegedly responsible for just 1.22 percent of unwanted losses. In the case of confirmed direct wolf predation on livestock, ranchers can apply for reimbursement from the Idaho Governor’s Office of Species Conservation.

It is my impression that wolves have become a scapegoat of sorts. They are being blamed without looking at the bigger picture of the ecology they are a part of.



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