Monday, January 11, 2016

Wolves are no environmental panacea

By Steve Lohr

The Sierra Club is in the process of issuing the marching orders for Colorado citizens. The opinion piece by Delia G. Malone: ("Wolves and Colorado need each other," Daily Camera, Dec. 19) and subsequent guest opinion by Jeff Davis ( "Support wolf restoration," Daily Camera, Dec. 26), 2015 indicate both writers are obviously affiliated with the Sierra Club and it is clear that the agenda emanates from the Sierra Club philosophy.

...What struck me immediately was the willingness to minimize the losses incurred by livestock growers. The losses documented by USFWS were reported in a typically biased fashion and failed to offer the caveat that studies have determined these losses could be under-reported and could reflect as little as an eighth of the actual losses. A recently revised report submitted to the New Mexico Game Commission which polled livestock growers in Catron County, N.M., where the New Mexican Grey Wolf has been released, stated that based on their information, "the Mexican Grey wolves have reduced calf crops by 15 percentage points on an annual basis." These are astounding numbers. In poorer counties the suffering from these kinds of losses is immense.

From the North we have seen 20 plus years of the Grey Wolf rapidly spreading territory from the transplanted animals in Idaho and Wyoming. Historically, relief from the destruction caused by these animals was obtained after more than a century of relentless removal to allow for successful animal husbandry. The result is a full three generations of U.S. citizens who have no knowledge of how dangerous and destructive these animals are. The ignorance set the stage for a concocted Sierra Club image of the wolf.

The wolf is not the fabulous environmental panacea it is purported to be any more than the house mouse is for a well-kept kitchen, or a rat for good barn management! We now have a predominant view that wolves are necessary for a "balanced" condition. Not many people are going to like what that "balance" really means.

The original impact estimates for reintroduction of the experimental population released in the Northern Rockies have been found to be wrong in several areas. To name a few: by 2004 the number of breeding pairs was at least 3.1 times the original prediction, by 2005 the population was 3.3 times the original prediction for a recovered population, in 2005 the wolf population in Wyoming outside Yellowstone National Park exceeded the recovery criteria for the entire region and continues to increase rapidly.

All Coloradans should be aware of the potential for grievous errors for any predictions about wolves given the risks posed to our recreational and agricultural industries and the impacts that seem certain to occur. Researcher L. David Mech of the University of Minnesota, a leading wolf expert, said that the so-called balance of nature never lasts long. Instead, ratios of wolves and prey animals fluctuate wildly while depredations are sure to follow. These conditions are not tolerable in mixed habitats where humans, livestock and other managed prey species share the land. For the people trying to make a living in Southern Colorado the possibility of a release of Mexican Grey Wolves onto Colorado land is a looming travesty.

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