It certainly isn’t the wolf, because now there are only about 550 left after the state allowed the hunting of 400 wolves during the 2011/2012 hunting season. On top of this, hunters are allowed to sport-trap or snare wolves whilst it is illegal to do so with cougars and bears. There has been an uprise of negativity in the states towards the wolf and in Idaho, this has recently culminated in the torture of a wolf and a picture going viral of a US forest service employee with the wolf trapped in a snare. I don’t want to put the picture on my blog but it has been published in the UKWCT and the Daily Mail.
Idaho is widely regarded amongst the conservation world as crucial to the recovery of wolves in the Northwestern States. The controversy is not only this picture of brutality within the Idaho hunt, it is also the idea to allow the killing of 40% of the wolf population. Had either the cougar or bear population reduced this much in a short time frame, immediate conservation action would be taken. However, the state has allowed the killing of this many wolves because of a reduction in Elk numbers, even though Idaho’s department of fish and game have said themselves that things are looking good in terms of Elk numbers. Another reason given for such a high allowance of wolf kills is their impact on livestock numbers. These numbers though, are highly exaggerated; the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) use here-say from the livestock industry and released figures stating that 2,561 cattle had been killed by wolves in 2011. The FWS however, who use verified reports from agents, released the figure of only 75.
Since government officials should be following the evidence-based advice, they should be looking at the FWS figures that indicate wolves have very little impact on cattle losses. Now lets look at some 2010 statistics, out of the 93,000 cattle losses only 6,100 were due to predation. Of THESE losses, wolves only accounted for 30% so let’s have a quick maths lesson; 30% of 6,100 is 1,830…. so just to get it clear:
93,000 cattle were lost in Idaho in 2010. Of these wolves were only responsible for 1,830 with coyotes and dogs being responsible for more.
So why are wolves singled out? This species may be widespread across the globe, but they are only just recovering from extirpation across many areas and are still missing from the majority of their historical range. If this persecution continues, with other states also following suit, the species may once again find itself on the peripherals of its range and losing these smaller populations is one step towards a species extinction. Had we prevented the extirpation of Tigers, Rhino’s and Gorillas from their historical range in the past, they wouldn’t be as endangered as they are now.