by James Goughnour, Payson
Just to be explicit on how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “... did respond to pleas to loosen restrictions on killing or harassing wolves to protect pets and cattle.”
Under the current rule, if a wolf or pack of wolves attacks a pet or yard animal the owner can take no action other than yelling, throwing rocks or waiving arms.
Under the new proposal if a wolf or pack of wolves is chasing your pet or yard animal, you can take no action; if a wolf or pack of wolves has your pet or yard animal surrounded or cornered, you can take no action; if a wolf or pack of wolves jumps on top of your pet or yard animal, you can take no action. Only when the wolf or wolves begin to tear your pet or yard animal to pieces, then and only then, you can shoot a wolf. However, you must immediately report the killing to the USFWS who will investigate the circumstances. If they do not find evidence of actual “bite marks” (USFWS term) you will be arrested and fined thousands of dollars.
Now let’s talk about livestock. Everything above applies to a wolf or wolves attacking livestock, except that the livestock owner must have a valid permit issued by the USFWS to shoot a wolf.
How do you get a permit?
You call the USFWS after wolves have killed one or more of your livestock.
After the USFWS investigates the killing, they “may” issue a permit for a limited duration of time and will authorize on the permit, precisely how many wolves may be killed if they attack another livestock.
Again, just so we all have the same understanding. Wolves will not just “wander outside the core reintroduction area ...” as stated in the article. Mating pairs of wolves will be released within the Payson and Tonto Basin Ranger Districts. They ain’t walking here folks, they will be brought here from holding pens where they are currently being raised, released into dens within our ranger districts where they will establish a territory and raise more wolves.
USFWS reports that there are over 300 Mexican gray wolves being raised in pens, ready to be released into Arizona and New Mexico.
The USFWS has not established an upper limit on the number of wolves they wish to have in the program. Therefore, there will be no limit on the number of wolves in Arizona and New Mexico.
I could go on with more examples, but I’ll make just one more point. The Yellowstone National Park elk population according to a USFWS estimate in 1995, before wolves were released, was 16,791 head. The USFWS stated in 1995 that the release of wolves would have “no impact” on Yellowstone elk and deer herds. In 2006, the elk herd estimate was 50 percent lower per USFWS estimates. In 2013 a non-biased independent group was hired to do an elk estimate since the USFWS doesn’t do them anymore. Their estimate is the Yellowstone elk herd is currently 3,915 which is a 77 percent decrease since the wolf introduction.
The mule deer herds in Yellowstone have seen similar declines.
I have attended three public meetings on this topic where the USFWS personnel displayed disregard and/or arrogance to questions or opinions from the public opposed to the release of wolves.
More than 40 representatives of Congress and senators signed a letter to the director of the USFWS documenting opposition to listing the Mexican gray wolf on the Endangered Species List and expansion of areas and numbers. The Arizona Game and Fish Department submitted a compromise proposal that slightly reduced the area and placed a limit to the number of wolves in the program. That proposal was rejected by the USFWS without comment.
The USFWS has opened a public comment period for 60 days. This is because they completed a draft environmental impact study (in record time) and found the release of more wolves onto the landscape will have “no impact” on elk or deer herds in Arizona or New Mexico.
We’re told this “no impact” is based on empirical data, however, in the next breath, USFWS states that somewhere between 40 to 60 percent of wolves actually have tracking collars. So how the no impact statement is justified is at least questionable.
Also the number of wolves which has been listed at 83 for the past couple of years is without basis for the same reason.
The Aug. 11 meeting at the Hon-Dah conference room in Pinetop will likely be the last chance for the public to meet face to face with the USFWS on this topic. I encourage everyone to attend this meeting to see and hear for yourself the comments on this topic.
Being explicit one more time, I am not a hunter, a rancher nor do I have any financial gain by this outcome. I am however, very concerned about the future of Arizona elk and deer herds from an economic and recreational viewpoint.
I am also concerned about wolves being released into Sitgreaves and Tonto national forests which are two of the most visited forests in the nation for family camping, hiking and other recreation.
Lastly, I am frustrated and angered that the USFWS and the non-Arizona, well-funded pro-wolf groups are ignoring inputs and facts from the people that will be mostly impacted by wolves in our communities.