Game-Changing Ruling Gives Gray Wolves A Chance
Wolves are among the most persecuted of all animals, and we rarely get to report good news about them. Today, thankfully, we can. On Thursday, February 10, a judge restored federal protections to gray wolves, reversing a Trump-era ruling that had officially removed them from the Endangered Species Act. Treat yourself to a moment of outright jubilation. It is warranted.
Unfortunately, the news is not all good. When we talk about gray wolves in the lower 48 states, we are talking about three subspecies of them: the Mexican gray wolf, the rocky mountain gray wolf, and the great plains gray wolf. Gray wolves were delisted almost a year and a half ago, and hundreds of these wolves who would otherwise have been protected were killed during that time. In addition, the recent federal relisting does not restore protection to gray wolves living in the Northern Rockies — Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. And it is precisely here that the war on wolves is being waged most intensely. In Idaho and Montana alone, in the last 12 months, more than 700 wolves have been hunted down via helicopter, dogs, and snowmobiles, and killed via poisons, traps, snares, and bullets.
The reason these gray wolves were delisted was, as expected, political. During negotiations for a federal budget bill in 2011 during the Obama Administration, and completely unrelated to matters of endangered species, a rider to delist the wolves from those states was snuck into the bill. This was the only time that Congress has ever removed a species from the Endangered Species List, a task otherwise assigned to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Alaska also has a small, isolated population of wolves, numbering in the hundreds. These are the rock mountain gray and arctic subspecies of wolves. These wolves currently have no protections, even though their numbers have been plummeting due to logging, road building, hunting, trapping, and the climate crisis, all being made worse by our ever-expanding human population. As with the wolves in the Northern Rockies, the Fish and Wildlife Service claims that their numbers are stable and so do not need protection, but the evidence suggests otherwise.
Wolves are intelligent, social beings, capable of feeling love, fear, and pain. They deserve protection for that reason alone, as well as for the vital role they play in the ecosystems they call home. And they need those protections immediately, as wolf breeding season is swiftly approaching, a time when wolves are particularly vulnerable.
We at In Defense of Animals have been fighting on behalf of wolves for decades now, and our fight goes on. We will not stop until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service quits doing the bidding of the for-profit ranching industry, and returns to its rightful mission of conserving and protecting species threatened with extinction.
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