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 Wisconsin, Michigan Lose Ability To Lethally Contr, 09/21/2006
Elffster
Posted: Sep 23 2006, 10:49 AM


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Jess Edberg, Information and Program Specialist -- International Wolf Center,


Officials in Michigan and Wisconsin may no longer remove wolves that kill livestock, according to a recent federal court ruling. Earlier this year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) issued the two states special permits allowing managers to kill up to 40 wolves in Michigan and 43 wolves in Wisconsin through the end of the year if certain conditions were met, including verification of the wolves being involved in the depredation and indications that the site was likely to experience further depredations in the near future.

According to wolf managers in both states, these permits had provided the states’ natural resources departments with an important tool for dealing with wolves that kill domestic livestock.

“The ability to remove depredating wolves is necessary in our efforts to address landowner problems,” stated Signe Holtz, director of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Bureau of Endangered Resources. “Wisconsin is committed to a self-sustaining, healthy population of wolves, but occasionally wolves cause problems that have an impact on the livelihoods of Wisconsin citizens—such as farmers and ranchers. The department is very disappointed in this action, which will reduce our ability to effectively deal with depredating wolves, and may erode support toward wolves by people in rural communities.”

Removing wolves that depredate helps to prevent additional depredation incidents in targeted areas, saving livestock producers many dollars in losses.

Brian Roell, statewide wolf coordinator with the Michigan DNR, is also concerned about the ramifications of this decision for public attitudes toward wolves. Citizens taking the law into their own hands and killing problem wolves are always a concern, Roell says, but may increase without legal removal options.

Eric Koens, a director of the Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association, confirms state managers’ fears when he acknowledges, “landowners will attempt to resolve the problem themselves.” He also predicts that tolerance for wolves will decrease as depredation problems increase and there is no recourse for dealing with depredating wolves.

In both states, lethal control is usually a last-resort management tool when other, nonlethal control methods are unsuccessful. Nonlethal aversion techniques to scare or haze wolves that harass and/or attack livestock such as flashing lights, noise makers, rubber bullets, pyrotechnics, and fladry (special flagging) are intended to negatively condition wolves to that property and deter them from the area.

Now, with lethal control removed from the toolbox, managers are exploring more ways to use nonlethal methods for preventing depredation. Adrian Wydeven, wolf biologist for the Wisconsin DNR, plans to implement shock collars, which will be placed on wolves trapped in areas where depredation has occurred. These collars, which cost around $300 a piece, will deliver a small electrical shock to the wolf when it comes within approximately 200 yards of a trigger device. The trigger devices can be placed around the perimeter of a pasture or other area where livestock are housed to negatively condition the wolves to that area.

The lawsuit that prompted this change in wolf management is one of the latest in a string of lawsuits against the federal government regarding wolf management.

After a coalition of wildlife conservation groups blocked the USFWS’s attempt to remove the federal protections of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) from wolves in the Midwest in 2005, the states of Wisconsin and Michigan applied for and received special permits to remove nuisance wolves despite their “endangered” status. In this recent court action, the wildlife conservation groups argued that the permits constituted a violation of the ESA.

The purpose of the ESA is to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems on which they depend until recovery is accomplished and management can return to state or tribal governments. The ESA restricts activities that may affect threatened and endangered species unless authorized by a permit from the USFWS. The plaintiffs in this case claimed that the killing of wolves for depredation was not a legitimate reason to issue a permit because lethal control does not protect or recover wolves.

Federal Judge Kollar-Kotelly ruled on the case on August 9, 2006, effectively revoking the permits to lethally remove wolves in Wisconsin. Based on the court ruling, the USFWS then decided to revoke Michigan’s permit as well.

State managers are hopeful that wolves will be removed from the endangered species list in the near future, turning wolf management over to the states, where managers will be free to implement lethal control once again. However, state and federal officials predict more lawsuits over lethal control even after the wolf is delisted.
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