French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre once said, “Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.” While this quote certainly applies to the drama unfolding in the 2012 election, it's also appropriate for a new rule announced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) allowing the hunting of wolves in Wyoming.
On Aug. 31, 2012, USFWS announced a final rule removing gray wolves from the federal list of threatened and endangered species in Wyoming. Wolves will be officially delisted and placed under state management in Wyoming on Oct. 1, 2012. In some areas -- largely the northwest corner of the state -- hunters must get a license and follow bag limits and season restrictions to harvest a wolf. In the rest of the state, wolves are considered predatory animals and are fair game at anytime. See complete rule details here.
Of course, when a once-endangered species is allowed to be hunted, the debate among hunters, environmentalists, land owners and ranchers gets pretty heated. I don't live in an area where wolves are a threat to my livestock, but I can imagine the despair of discovering that calves are missing, coupled with the difficulty of trying to prove the predation when little to no evidence is left behind. I’m sure this new rule not only pleases the sportsmen who enjoy hunting deer and elk in Wyoming, but also the ranchers and landowners who want to protect their livestock. That’s not to say ranchers don’t respect and value the environment and the wildlife that inhabit the land, but it does offer a different perspective to the conversation.
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A blog called South Dakota Politics (SDP) recently detailed this debate, citing an editorial found in the Chicago Tribune: “For a lesson in how not to approach such issues as these, consider the Chicago Tribune's (CT) recent editorial: ‘The War On Wolves.’ CT has its fur up over the legal hunting of wolves. The editorial begins with a misanthropic musing on the misbehavior of the human species. It then proceeds to articulate an environmental version of original sin. Apparently CT thinks that we should not ask whether hunting limited numbers of wolves is a threat to the recovered wolf population. The editorial never raises that question. Instead we should consider the guilt we bear for our past sins. We shouldn't hunt wolves now because we were bad to them in the past.
"CT lumps ranchers who fear wolves preying on their herds with hunters who want a chance to put a wolf head over their dining room tables as a vast alliance bent on the extinction of all things lupine. This is noxious numbskullery. Most ranchers would indeed like to see wolves go away altogether. Hunters by contrast would like to see the population of wolves increase so that their chances of bagging one would go up. Hunters and conservationists are natural allies whenever they are willing to look each other in the eye. That, of course, is the problem.
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“The Tribune's editors assure us that, ‘We aren't anti-hunting.’ “No. They are anti-hunter, as is clear from this gem: ‘The conflict pits people who would enjoy shooting wolves — think Sarah Palin, firing from an aircraft — against what a Montana wolf hunter interviewed on The Sportsman Channel called ‘a bunch of wingnut screwballs from wherever (telling) us how to manage wildlife.’
“I am not sure what the Chicago Tribune thinks about ranchers, but its editorial is dripping with loathing for hunters and trappers. It is altogether innocent of the simple question whether the hunting of wolves makes sense as ecological management. That might not be the best way to consider conservation policy.”
Taking a look at the numbers, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, at the end of December 2011, there were an estimated 328 wolves in Wyoming, including 48 packs and 27 breeding pairs. This included 224 wolves, 36 packs, and 19 breeding pairs outside Yellowstone National Park. Starting Oct. 1, the game is going to change in Wyoming.
What’s your perspective on the new rule? Are you a landowner, rancher, hunter or combination of all three? How do you think the rule will impact Wyoming and the wolf population?
By the way, if you’re near Great Falls, MT, this week, join me at the Women Stepping Forward For Agriculture Symposium 2012 on Sept. 26 and 27. I will be speaking and presenting workshops on both days, as well as signing copies of my children’s book, “Levi’s Lost Calf.” There’s a great lineup of speakers during the conference, too. For more information, click here.
Also, don’t forget to vote in the Farm Boy “Workhorses” Of The Ranch Photo Contest. The deadline is Wednesday, Sept. 26, at 5 p.m. Winners will be announced on Sept. 27. Vote here.