We praise President Obama today for putting the brakes on last minute regulations by the previous Administration, including a move by former President Bush to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list. In one of his first official actions, President Obama issued a freeze on publications of federal regulations planned under the Bush Administration but not yet published in the Federal Register. Today's action will give the Obama Administration time to review the wolf delisting and, quite possibly, prevent the premature removal of gray wolves from the list in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes regions.
"The past eight years have been a nightmare for wildlife. Fortunately, within hours of assuming office, President Obama has put the brakes on the Bush Administration's 11th hour attacks on wolves and the environment. President Obama is a breath of fresh air."
Last year, the Bush Interior Department moved to lift safeguards for the Northern Rockies gray wolf. But the effort was blocked in federal court after conservation and animal welfare groups took legal action. In the waning days of the Bush Administration, the White House announced again it would remove wolves from the endangered list in Idaho, Montana, and the Great Lakes. There are an estimated 1,500 wolves in Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. We have argued that number is too low to maintain genetic diversity within the population. The group also said if wolves are stripped of federal protections, the species would be handed over to states that have demonstrated an “open hostility” toward the animals. For example, Idaho and Montana's wolf “management” plans permit hunting of wolves and place emphasis on aggressive lethal control of the species over non-lethal preventative measures.
Imperiled wolves are facing increasing threats. We said a record number of 245 wolves was killed last year by government agencies and ranchers in the Northern Rockies. Last November, the wildlife advocates condemned the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Department and the federal agency, Wildlife Services, for killing all 27 wolves, including pups, of the Hog Heaven pack near Kalispell. The elimination of the Hog Heaven pack was not an isolated incident. In 2008 alone, seven wolf packs were completely wiped out in the Big Sky state. Instead of killing wolves, federal and state agencies should use a suite of non-lethal measures and incentives to reduce conflicts with wolves.
For example, Radio Activated Guard (RAG) boxes, as well as the “turbofladry,” have shown success in deterring wolves. When a radio-collared wolf steps onto a rancher’s land, the RAG boxes turn on a strobe light and a tape of different sounds, including people yelling, helicopters flying, glass breaking, and gunshots to scare the animal away. Fladry consists of a rope or wire that has strips of red or orange flagging along its length. The flagging acts as a psychological deterrent to wolves. When an electrified wire is added to the fladry, it is called 'Turbo-fladry'. The shock wolves receive when touching the wire conditions them to stay away. Other non-lethal methods include: erecting electric fencing, using guarding animals, penning animals at night, and installing motion detection lighting, strobes, and other devices that frighten wolves.
In cases where non-lethal measures are not practical, efforts should be made to move domestic animals off public lands and provide financial incentives to ranchers to set aside some private land as wolf conservation areas. In addition, advocate offering tax breaks to ranchers who employ non-lethal methods.
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