Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced their recommendation to remove gray wolves from the Endangered Species List.*
Last fall, I wrote a post on gray wolves, illustrated with the sketch shown below. Given the news from the USFWS, I thought this would be a good time to revisit wolves with a few updates.
Why do we need gray wolves?
Among other reasons, the gray wolf is a keystone predator, which means it is fundamentally important to the entire ecosystem. Also called a top predator or apex predator, these species are important in keeping predator-prey populations in balance. Without top predators, smaller prey species like birds, small mammals or reptiles can decline.
What happened to Journey? Did he find a mate?
After spending the winter in the Sierras and southern Cascades, Journey, the first wild wolf in California in almost a century, finally decided to ditch the golden state. Last March, his radio collar showed he had crossed the border back into into Oregon. Apparently, since he had been unable to find a mate in California, Journey saw no reason to stay there. You can find out more about Journey here.
What’s going on with wolves in Washington State?
•According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in Washington State (as of April 2012) there are 43 wolves in 7 packs, with 4 breeding pairs. That is much lower than Montana (625 wolves) or Idaho (683 wolves).
Conservation Northwest has since tallied 9 Washington packs in fall of 2012.
•The proposed delisting of gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act will particularly affect wolves in the Washington Cascades, where there are less than 20 individuals and 2 breeding pairs.
•Last year, the pilot program Range Rider, a partnership between the Department of Fish and Wildlife, Conservation Northwest and cattle ranchers went into effect. Essentially a guard, a cowboy or cowgirl rides with the herd in the open range, keeping the animals together, treating sick or injured ones, and just by their human presence…discouraging wolf attacks. The results were good: all the cows came home safe and sound this year.
•The on-going construction work on I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass includes wildlife crossings that might help wolves and other animals move between the North Cascades and Mt. Rainier National Park, the two largest areas of wildlife habitat remaining in the state. Gray wolves, wolverine, lynx, grizzly bear, and cougar are some of the large mammals that wildlife biologists hope will be able to safely cross I-90 into these areas.
•In February 2013, Rep. Joel Kretz of Wauconda, Washington, proposed a bill to move gray wolves west over the Cascades to the Olympic Peninsula and the San Juan Islands. (so funny, I forgot to laugh)
•Read more about the Proposed Delisting of Gray Wolves.
What do you think? Do you think wolves should be removed from the Endangered Species Act, or kept on it?
*There is a 90-day public comment period, starting Thursday, June 13th.
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