Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Wolf Solution - Wolf Week Wrap-up

As my self-proclaimed Wolf Week here on my blog and on my Facebook photography page winds to a close, I wanted to thank all of you for your support and feedback and offer up some final words as potential solutions to the problems wolves face in Alberta, British Columbia, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.

It saddens me that in today's more enlightened, environmentally-conscious society we still legally allow wolves to be snared, trapped, baited, called-in, chased, and shot with impunity across vast swaths of our wild regions (just last Wednesday, Montana's governor swore in a new bill continuing to allow wolf hunting on Yellowstone's border claiming that the new bill was supported by "sound science"). It's incredulous that two main lobby groups, sport hunters and ranchers, have wielded such power over the political process when it comes to wolf management (an oxymoron if ever there was one in the northwest!), creating this battleground that festers now between wolf lovers and wolf haters.

What does the future hold for our wild wolves?

I knew a week ago that I wanted to direct this Wolf Week series of blog and facebook posts towards an end goal: to get people like you to help demand change from our state and provincial wildlife managers and agencies in how our wild wolves are perceived, treated, and managed.

But before I get to that, I wanted to quickly recap the past week's posts for those of you that are just finding this for the first time:

On Day 1, Wolf Snares in my Backyard tackled a local problem here in the Rockies where Conservation Officers recently set out wolf snares intended to choke wolves (and anything else unfortunate enough to get ensnared -- including your family dog) to death on public crown land, effectively using our taxpayer dollars to fund a private business (a ranch) on public land because the business had complained about a small, neighbouring wolf pack (meanwhile, here in Canmore, I complained about having other photographers competing with me and so far not a single one of them has been snared by the government, go figure!).

On Day 2, A Wolf Kill Contest Update looked (once) again at the barbaric wolf kill contest in Fort St. John, B.C. that I covered back in November and December and noted that Pacific Wild, a British Columbia environmental organization headed by friends of mine, is threatening to challenge the contest's legality in court. [Thank you to everyone who donated to Pacific Wild's cause, if anyone would still like to donate, you can do so here -- I'd love to see even more of you match my donation of $250.  For Americans that would like to donate to a worthy cause in the U.S., please consider donating to WildEarth Guardians or to WolfWatcher.]

On Day 3, I stepped away from the bad news for a day and showed off some wild wolf pictures along with a few stories in a post entitled, My Favourite Wolves.

Day 4 was back to the issues at hand, as Debunking the Wolf-Livestock Myth took an in-depth look at the lies behind the cattle industry's blatant war on wolves across the northwest. The science and data all point to the same conclusion: wolves are not a threat to the livestock industry.

And finally, Day 5 was perhaps the most contentious post of the week, as Hunting and the Big Bad Wolf examined the slippery slope of half-truths and misrepresentations that the pro-wolf hunting lobby floats to the public to rationalize killing wolves to boost big game populations.

Why do we continue persecuting wolves when science shows they are not a threat?

I hope that these posts enlightened many of you to the real issues at hand here: that wolves are being unfairly persecuted across our provinces and states and that it's time we changed our wolf management policies.  As my posts have clearly shown, wild wolves are not a threat to human safety, to the livestock industry, or even to the sport hunting industry.  Rather than having our politicians ignore the science and continue to listen to the loudest lobby groups, I think we have a chance to effect real change with our own lobby group of wolf lovers, admirers, photographers, and biologists.

And while I would love to see an end to wolf trapping and hunting across the board from my own moral standpoint, I'm also not naive enough to think that will happen and nor do I think it needs to happen in regards to having sound scientific wolf management plans in place.  Rather, I want to aim for more feasible goals, beginning with no-hunting, no-trapping buffer zones set around all of our national parks like Banff, Yoho, Kootenay, Jasper, Waterton, Glacier, and Yellowstone to not only protect wolves, but also to protect the burgeoning tourism industry in these areas.  It is estimated that Yellowstone's wolves alone bring in more than 35 million dollars to the local economies, so it only makes sense that if we're still going to have wolf management that protects the interests of ranchers and sport hunters, then we also need to even the playing field and protect the interests of businesses that host the millions of tourists that flock to these World Heritage Sites in the hopes of seeing wild wolves.

How big should these buffer zones be?  Well, let's put it this way: in 2012, Banff National Park protected 6,697 square kilometers (2,564 square miles) of the Canadian Rockies -- it's an enormous swath of wilderness that takes over an hour to drive across from east to west, and almost two hours to drive across from south to north.  Yet in 2012, Banff National Park was home to exactly two wild wolf packs that did not have to deal with the threats of trapping and hunting on the park's edges.  Just two secure packs!  In fact, add in all of Kootenay and Yoho national parks, too, and we're still left with just two secure packs.

[Editor's note: For a fantastic resource on what we need in terms of buffer zones (and a great wolf resource website, period), check out Just Beings Wolf Conservation.]

Our national parks in Canada and the U.S. are not large enough on their own for secure wolf habitat


Other changes I would also like to see in future wolf management plans include:

- making wolf kill contests illegal
- making wolf hunting from snowmobiles (in a chase) illegal
- making wolf hunting with baiting or calling illegal
- making wolf hunting tags mandatory
- limiting the authority of wildlife management agencies to kill wolves except in the case of verified livestock losses and/or broader programs aimed at threatened or endangered species recovery (e.g. a broader program for caribou recovery in Idaho, B.C., and Alberta might include a wolf cull of entire packs known to prey on caribou IF the program also included an extensive habitat recovery phase limiting ATV use, snowmobile use, oil and gas exploration, etc).

and

- significantly bolstering our livestock reimbursement programs in terms of both funding and personnel (so that claims are dealt with quickly, efficiently, and accurately and so that verified claims are fully reimbursed across the northwest).

So what do you think of my suggestions?  What did you think of Wolf Week? And what changes would you like to see in wolf management in B.C., Alberta, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana?  Please submit your Comments below to let me know.

Or better yet, why not submit your comments to the politicians in charge of our wolf management plans and ask for buffer zones around our national parks along with some of the other suggestions I mentioned above:

For British Columbians, you can email:

Honourable Steve Thomson—Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources

To: Steve.Thomson.mla@leg.bc.ca
CC: rich.coleman.mla@leg.bc.ca; terry.lake.mla@leg.bc.ca; sunletters@vancouversun.com; info@pacificwild.org, adrian.dix.mla@leg.bc.ca, info@wildernessprints.com

(be sure to include reference to the buffer zones, to government workers snaring wolves (Day 1 post), to the wolf kill contest (Day 2 post), and to strengthening the livestock reimbursement program)

For Albertans, you can email:

Honourable Diana McQueen -- Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development

To: ESRD.Minister@gov.ab.ca
CC: vermilion.lloydminster@assembly.ab.ca, info@wildernessprints.com, office@albertaliberal.com, asyslak@cpaws.org

@DianaMcQueenMLA (twitter)

(be sure to include reference to the buffer zones, to the fact no tag is required to hunt wolves, to the value of wild wolves to tourism in Alberta, and to the strengthening of the livestock reimbursement program)

And for those of you in the U.S.:

Visit WolfWatcher's Take Action page to see what you can do right now to help Yellowstone's wolves (including phone numbers and emails for Montana's governor -- be sure to reference the value of wolves to tourism in Montana and the critical need for buffer zones).

That's it for now, everyone. Thank you again for all of your support. 

John

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8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I truly appreciate everything you have done to raise awareness about this issue. Humans have such a medieval mindset when it comes to wolves, and that certainly needs to change. Thank you for being a voice for these beautiful animals.

February 19, 2013 at 10:41 AM  
Anonymous Carl Marshall said...

The goals seem to be right on point. Buffer zones would not only help to prserve packs but larger areas of land in which legally sanctioned killing cannot occur, or is at least curtailed, might also lead to an expanded range and corridors through which wolves pushed out of packs might establish in new areas. It has long been a goal to establish corridors where different genetic populations can comingle. This might help that too.

Thanks,John. Now, the rest of us have the opportunity to lend our support.

February 19, 2013 at 12:22 PM  
Anonymous Kirsten Rose said...

Thank you John, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. I've enjoyed your articles very much and I will continue to enjoy your lovely photos.

February 19, 2013 at 12:55 PM  
Anonymous Isobel St James said...

Your posts have been thoughtful, well written and absolutely spot-on. I live in the UK and have watched with incredulity and mounting horror at the barbarous slaughter unleashed on wolves in both the USA and Canada. Some very underhanded, shady backroom politics, corporate greed and the ignorant thuggery of those who indiscriminately slaughter wildlife for 'fun' has been sickening to behold. Can you imagine the Kenyan government giving animal welfare over to armed poachers? Yet two of the biggest western democracies are treating their wildlife worse than most third world countries ever have. I personally have visited Montana and Wyoming many times and have loved watching these beautiful creatures in their wild habitat. I will no longer be visiting these states who so wilfully massacre and abuse such a precious resource. As far as I am concerned the only thing that should shoot a wolf in a camera. As a foreign national I will continue to add my voice to protest this travesty, but as a non-resident I will also protest in the only truly effective way I can, by taking my tourist dollars elsewhere.

February 19, 2013 at 2:12 PM  
Anonymous Hendrik Boesch said...

In addition to better efficiency for refunding farmers for loss of cattle there should also be more information and assistance for them to prevent a loss in the first place. Little things like temporary additional fences that shy the wolfs away during the season the cows give birth, moving cattle, removing dead cattle the same or the following day and other precautions can already contribute to preventing conflicts between humans and wolfs in the area.

Then there are options of having shepherd dogs that live with the cattle and have proven to be effective in Asia and Europe by reducing attacks. Instead of just refunding farmers for lost cattle, there could and imho should be programs to fund help for farmers to make their land less attractive for wolfs. It is a big investment first, but can reduce payments in the long run.

What the people need is information based on facts, so that the whole discussion can be less emotional with less hear/say stated as 'facts'. At the same time I wish that studies would be made more public going into greater detail. Conflicts can be prevented or reduced with proactive solutions, but for that both sides in this argument need to be more honest, less biased and less emotional.

There will always be conflicts and always people hating this animal no matter what. Still it's worth to continue to raise awareness about the conflicts to work towards a better coexistence. So that this species won't be doomed forever but accepted as part of ecosystems like other big predators.

February 19, 2013 at 5:53 PM  
Anonymous Scott Lewis said...

I cant thank you enough for bringing this issue out to the public. Keep up the great work.

February 20, 2013 at 12:40 AM  
Blogger Wendy said...

Thank you John - your voice is loud and clear

February 20, 2013 at 2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bet people don't realize that the beloved pet dog (whatever the species) came from the wolf. If it weren't for wolves and their co-operation with our ancestors we wouldn't have our beloved family pets. Just summarizing a program I saw on the evolution of domestic dogs.

February 22, 2013 at 8:29 PM  

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