By Dave Hurteau & Chad Love
From the Los Angeles Times:
State game agencies and private citizens would be allowed to kill federally protected gray wolves that threatened dogs or seriously decreased deer, elk or moose populations in parts of the northern Rocky Mountains, under a federal rule announced Thursday.
The regulation comes a month ahead of the expected federal decision to take the gray wolf off the endangered species list, which would allow wolves to be hunted. That decision is likely to face protracted litigation.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services officials said Thursday that the revised provision would allow for states to deal with areas where wolf activity is affecting wildlife populations while delisting is tied up in court.
Several groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and the Center for Biological Diversity are fighting the decision.
From the Helena Independent Record:
“The Bush administration is giving a blank check to the states to slaughter wolves for doing what they need to do to make a living — which is eating deer and elk,” said Louisa Wilcox with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The government spent millions of dollars to reintroduce wolves to the wild in the Northern Rockies, and now it wants to spend millions more to kill them. That’s crazy.”
But Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said that’s not the case.
“Everybody’s crying wolf,” he said on Thursday. “We expect the number killed will be less than we currently kill now for livestock depredations. . . .”
Several news articles reporting this announcement hint at hunting opportunities, but do not confirm or describe them explicitly. So I called Ed Bangs this morning to clarify whether this rule allows the states to set open seasons. “No,” he said. “This absolutely does not open the door to a public hunt.” However, he confirms that states can conduct cull hunts and may enlist some private citizens to participate.