MISSOULA, Mont. – The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is urging hunters to continue their restraint and to not take wolf management into their own hands while afield this fall.
RMEF President and CEO David Allen also is thanking hunters in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming for their patience and sportsmanship over the years since wolf populations in those states have been fully restored but still federally protected.
Allen said, “We understand the growing frustration felt by sportsmen regarding wolves. We’re extremely frustrated, too. However, we ask hunters to avoid the temptation to solve this problem through ‘vigilante wolf management.’ The sporting community must continue to follow our time-honored tradition of legal, ethical hunting.”
He added, “Even though the wolf debate, as well as the wolf population, are increasing, we need not act as radical and extreme as the environmental and animal-rights folks. We can’t give them any excuses to further their rhetoric or campaigns or lawsuits. We can win this fight with science and bring real wildlife management back to the states. There currently is significant movement to delist wolves, which is ultimately the only remedy to this issue.”
Currently, multiple bills have been introduced in Congress, or are about to be introduced, to address wolf overpopulations. RMEF and many other sportsmen groups are supporting a complete delisting of gray wolves as their population numbers have thrived and the science clearly shows they are fully recovered.
Wolf populations in at least 12 states are increasing while elk, moose and deer numbers are in significant decline in areas where wolves are present and unmanaged. Sportsmen and wildlife biologists are concerned about alarming declines in ungulate numbers because of out-of-control wolf populations.
Adding to frustrations is the fact that the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Department is actively negotiating with environmental and animal rights groups – the plaintiffs who sued to keep wolves federally protected – to reach a settlement on wolf population levels in Montana. This action essentially dismisses the science and public input that helped shape the state’s current wolf-management plan. The negotiations are widely unsupported and discouraged by sportsmen who say it’s unlikely that a truly binding agreement can ever be reached.
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter recently notified the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service that Idaho would no longer act as an agent for the federal agency when it comes to managing wolves in Idaho.
“We applaud Governor Otter’s courage to stand up for Idaho’s wildlife and for the state’s ability to manage its wildlife as it should be,” Allen added.
Allen said that since wolf populations reached recovery goals across the Northern Rockies, there has been very little “vigilante wolf management,” and he hopes that will continue.
“Given the intensity of this debate and issue, hunters should be applauded for their sportsmanship over the past 15-plus years. I know this is frustrating for hunters, ranchers and others who have played by the rules and yet continue to be ignored. We hope their patience will continue as we work to bring science, common sense and state authority back into wildlife management.”