Testimony Prepared for the Oregon State Legislature, House Agriculture Committee Regarding Wolves And Particularly Those Diseases And Infections That They Carry And Spread That Humans Are Susceptible To.
By James M. Beers, Retired Wildlife Biologist, US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Thank you for allowing me to testify before this Committee today. My name is James Beers and I retired from the US Fish and Wildlife Service as a Wildlife Biologist in 1999 after 32 years as a Wetlands Biologist, Special
Agent, Congressional Fellow, Animal Damage Control Program Coordinator, Chief of Operations for the National Wildlife Refuge System, Administrative Officer for the Endangered Species Program, and Wildlife Biologist
responsible for the Excise Taxes collected on arms and ammunition and that, by law, may only be used by state fish and wildlife agencies for Wildlife Restoration. I was stationed in North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York City, and for 25 years in Washington, DC. I once worked for the Utah Fish & Game and I have a BS in Wildlife Resources from Utah State University and an MA in Public Administration from the University of Northern Colorado.
Since my retirement in 1999 after testifying twice before the US House of Representatives, Natural Resources Committee about the theft by US Fish and Wildlife Service Administrators of $45M to $60M (as reported in a General Accounting Office (GAO) Audit Report to the US House Resources Committee) from the excise taxes on arms and ammunition earmarked by law for state fish and wildlife programs I have written and spoken extensively about wildlife management and conservation across the nation. The Introduction,
Protection, and Impacts of Federal Wolf Programs are perhaps the most controversial and wide-ranging such issues today. As a result, requests for my assistance, writing informative articles, suggesting what those being affected can do, and speaking requests over the past decade have caused me to spend a great deal of my time confronting this very intractable issue.
The wolves that are entering Oregon as we speak and that Oregonians have watched causing havoc in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming for the past 15 years were released in Yellowstone Park in 1995. The capture, transportation, and release of those original wolves was paid for with excise tax dollars that were taken from Wildlife Restoration funds that were collected for and could only be used by state fish and wildlife agencies for authorized state wildlife restoration projects. The reason for this theft or diversion by US Fish and Wildlife Service Administrators as reported by GAO was that Congress had not agreed to fund the release with Appropriated funding so their illicit diversion was perpetrated secretly. Just last week I spoke about his matter at great length in Bozeman, Montana. There are other associated and legally questionable aspects of this wolf release and their subsequent spread that I covered in that presentation:
1. The illegal supplementing of the federal Budget with the (diverted?/stolen?) excise tax dollars.
2. The wolf introduction after Congress had not authorized funding the introduction.
3. The apparent failure by those importing the wolves into the US to complete the required paperwork (Form 3-177).
4. The total failure of federal documents to address or describe the impacts that wolves are having on human disease transmission, big game herds, hunting license revenue, domestic animal owners from ranchers to dog owners, rural economies, rural “tranquility”, costs to state governments, and human safety.
5. The role of Non-Government Organizations playing significant roles in the wolf program from verifying damages and assisting in operations to receiving federal funds while actively participating in federal elections lobbying and candidate opposition.
6. The unequal treatment of those being harmed by wolves by the federal wolf program overseers.
7. The failure of the USFWS to routinely audit state fish and wildlife programs for compliance every 5 years as required by the law authorizing the excise tax collection.
8. The very questionable firing of contract auditors hired to resume the required audits that found more than $100M in discrepancies in state programs halfway through the first cycle before being fired for “being behind schedule” and the disappearance of any follow-up or reporting of the discrepancies.
8. The current situation where in the US Department of the Interior Inspector General, that is responsible for USFWS oversight, is actually paid to conduct perfunctory state fish and wildlife audits BY USFWS.
9. The $2M-$3M being given , since the theft of the $45M to $60 M, to the 50 States’ Washington Lobby Organization BEFORE the excise taxes are apportioned to the state agencies based on the formula in the Act. While ostensibly for “multi-state” projects (nowhere mentioned in the Act) the lobby group, like those mentioned above under #5, has increased staffing and continued to engage in lobbying federal officials and institutions.
10. The scandalous fact that not one state ever asked for the stolen excise tax money to be replaced.
The mounting losses of big game herds, big game hunting opportunity, and state revenue from hunting license sales as a result of the rapidly expanding wolf packs are staggering:
The Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd, reputedly the largest such herd in the world is on the verge of total collapse and extinction. After years as high as 30K and a long-term average of 19K, today the outfitters believe there are as few as only 2K while state employees claim 4-6K. Of those left, winter counts of calves show fewer that 4 or 5 per 100 cows and the vast majority of cows and bulls are 7 years old or older. Not only are there so few; those left are non-breeders and the future for license sales, rural communities, and hunting is not only grim, it is lost if drastic action is not taken.
A somewhat similar herd in Idaho, the Lolo herd, is likewise on the verge of disappearance. Permit applications that were historically well over those available now go begging at this late date. The latest report I have is only about 3K applicants for more than 11K permits. The hunters have begun to realize that the state is selling more than they should. While selling too many permits for the elk available when elk are abundant results in reduced herds, selling too many when the herd is disappearing simply wrings a few more dollars from hunters that will be disappointed anyway.
Wolf kill permits, while apparently numerous, are based on totally ineffective quotas. Wolves are increasing at more than 30%/year and they are not amenable to any accurate surveying. Everyone agrees that there
are too many at this time but state fish and wildlife agency estimates are increasingly dismissed as extreme undercounts by those being affected. Even though quota increases from100 to 400 sound good to those wishing to manage the wolf numbers, if as is likely Montana has 4K wolves and they want to maintain say 1K – you would have to try and kill about 70% per year for several years and then about 40 % per year to reach and maintain 1K wolves. Add to that ineffective survey numbers and you see the problem.
Another issue is killing the required numbers over time. Wolves are very smart and very adaptive. Hunting (even for the current 2-3% of formerly un-hunted, i.e. “dumb” wolves) is insufficient. Wolves learn quickly to
be more secretive and since they do not come to calls or bait, shooting them becomes more and more opportunistic and luck-driven. Between the prohibitions on traps and poisons and aerial hunting and the patchwork of public and much private lands that prohibit it, hunting is a very ineffective control tool.
While we could go on about livestock losses, human attacks to be expected, dog losses, and the general strife and stress that wolves are bringing to rural American communities and their economies, I will conclude with a snapshot of human disease issues that like so many others went unmentioned when wolves were being introduced to the Lower 48 states.
Wolves are very wide-ranging animals. They are not only fearless, they frequent human habitations with impunity and often concentrate on pastures or homesteads or big game wintering areas so that when they pick up an infection or disease, they will likely go to similar surroundings where similar animals or humans can be infected. It is not that they carry all these diseases, it is that when they do get a really bad one like anthrax or rabies or foot-and-mouth or chronic wasting disease – stopping the spread is almost impossible as when dogs and other wildlife carriers that don’t roam far and wide (nor travel in packs like bats sleeping together are very able to spread disease among themselves) are killed when there is a rabies or Mad Cow (BSE) outbreak. Consider the havoc, often documented in early America of rabid wolves that go for miles biting everything they encounter. Indian villages, trappers, homesteaders, and even forts with soldiers all have records of the terror and death rabid wolves were capable of imposing.
The following list of diseases carried by wolves, while not totally comprehensive, represents over 30 infections that have been credited to wolves. Those that can infect humans are followed by an (H), those that affect other animals are followed by an (OA).
1. Rabies (H) (OA)
2. Brucellosis (H) (OA) Hydatid Disease:
3. Echinococcus granulosis (H) (OA)
4. Echinococcus multilocularis (H) (OA)
5. Anthrax (H) (OA)
6. Encephalitis (H) (OA)
7. Great Lakes Fish Tapeworm (H) (OA)
8. Smallpox (H) (OA)
9. Mad Cow (BSE) (OA) (H)
10. Chronic Wasting Disease (OA) From Ticks Carried by wolves:
11. Anemia (H)
12. Dermatosis (H)
13. Tick paralysis (H)
14. Babesiosis (H)
15. Anaplasmosis (H)
16. Erlichia (H)
17. E. Coast Fever (H)
18. Relapsing Fever (H)
19. Rocky Mtn. Spotted Fever (H)
20. Lyme Disease (H) From Fleas:
21. Plague (H)
22. Bubonic Plague (H)
23. Pneumonic Plague (H)
24. Flea-Borne Typhus (H)
25. Distemper (OA)
26. Neospora caninum (OA)
27. 2 Types of Mange (H) (OA)
28. GID (a disease of wild and domestic sheep) (OA)
29. Foot-and -Mouth (OA)
Of the 29 diseases and infections listed, 24 affect humans and many of these are deadly. Whether it is a child ingesting tapeworm eggs from a ranch house floor rug or a jogging soccer Mom encountering wolves as a
schoolteacher did recently in Alaska that resulted in a horrible death, the fact that these human health hazards have been given short-shrift by wildlife agencies and their veterinarians is nothing short of scandalous.
How do you control wolves as vectors of these diseases when there is an outbreak? Who pays for control? What methods are permissible? Who is responsible? These sorts of questions need to be answered before you (the State Government) can determine where wolves are to be tolerated; in what numbers; and how these things are to be achieved ad infinitum. I am a strong believer that State Governments are the proper place for such decisions if the first and foremost purpose of government – “domestic Tranquility” and “the general Welfare” of the all the citizenry are to achieved and maintained.
Thank you and I am willing to answer any questions you might have.
25 May 2010