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Gray Wolves Slaughtered as U.S. Government Declares “Open Season”

September 08, 2021

Gray Wolves Slaughtered as U.S. Government Declares “Open Season”

Gray Wolves delisted from the federal list of Endangered and Threatened Species is a hard hitting reality of a world torn between two opposing perspectives. We’re heartbroken the U.S. government essentially declared it “Open Season” on gray wolves in North America with this new legislation. But, behind every heartbreak is an opportunity for growth, and the most important thing we can do is uncover the truth, avoid turning a blind eye, and take action. We even put together a guide to help you get in contact with legislators and hopefully pave a path forward (so it’s not all doom and gloom for those as disheartened by this news as we are)! But before we get to that, let’s take a deep dive into what’s going on and why the U.S. government is now allowing for gray wolves to be slaughtered.

On November 3, 2020, the United States Fish & Wildlife Service published a final rule, removing the gray wolf from the federal list of Endangered and Threatened Species. With Gray Wolves delisted, individual states now have the power to decide whether or not they should give gray wolves protection. This created an immediate threat for all wolves across the country because their lives are now in the hands of governors instead of wildlife scientists. The delisting of gray wolves came as a slap in the face to all the biologists and environmental nonprofit organizations that put in years of hard work to successfully rehabilitate the wolf population; a concerted effort that literally took decades to accomplish!

 

 

As one of the immediate results of this decision Idaho lobbyists were able to convince the local government to declare open season on wolves — allowing for 90% of its wolf population to be killed. Out of the 1,500 wolves living in the state of Idaho (a small number for such a large territory), only 150 will be left by the time the slaughter is over. Montana is next, and soon other states will follow. Many of the bills being passed are seeking to legalize a range of new hunting methods that not only reimburse trappers, but also allow for inhumane snaring devices that catch and choke animals to death. Hunters have even been given the greenlight to go into dens and kill pups that are just weeks old. These are the same tactics that were originally used on gray wolves, to bring them to the brink of extinction.

Despite this ruling, these beautiful animals need our help and protection more than ever!

Why Do People Support the Slaughtering of Wolf Populations?

There are really just two arguments for declaring it open season on these innocent wolves. Full Disclosure: As you read these arguments for killing wolves, you may feel like they are not backed by scientific research (because they’re not) but seem more like some bizarre lust for blood rooted in a testosterone-induced stupidity mixed with some inaccurate assumptions about farm animals being preyed upon or a flat out desire to trophy hunt. So… Let’s get to it shall we.

The Arguments For Killing 90% of the wolves:

  1. Wolves are killing too many game species (like elk and deer) that people like to hunt.

  2. Cattle ranchers are having difficulty keeping their livestock safe from wolves.

Are Wolves Really a Threat to Other Animals & Ecosystems?

The first argument is that wolves are killing ungulates (aka mammals with hooves like deer or elk) at a rate that is negatively impacting the ecosystem as well as hunters. This simply is not true and science readily supports this. There is ZERO data from the Parks Department that would suggest that hoofed wildlife populations are being stressed or harmed by the wolf population at all. Many wildlife biologists support these findings, and surprisingly, even the Montana wildlife federation (a pro hunting conservation group) also agrees.

Contrary to popular belief, the elk population has been holding steady for years. In fact, since wolves were reintroduced to the region in 1995, the number of elk have substantially increased. We will admit that wolves have made elk more alert to the various dangers around them, making elk more difficult to hunt and ultimately causing some resentment within the hunting community. No more lazy deer—annoying for some hunters, but far from the end of the world.

The sad thing is, it seems like more hunters want to kill for sport than any other reason. Hunting for sport is an activity that we feel the whole world should condemn in this day and age. At this point in our evolutionary junction, there is simply no good reason to kill innocent wildlife—especially if it’s just to pad your ego and boast about your “accomplishments” at the bar. If you’re as disgusted by this as we are, we hope you join us in fighting for the rights of our furry friends. We’ll walk you through a few effective ways to start making a difference later in the article.

Are Wolves Really Killing Livestock?

The second major argument is that wolves are negatively impacting farmers by killing precious livestock like cattle and sheep. Sounds reasonable enough, but when you look at the statistics, it simply doesn’t add up. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 6 million head of cattle live in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming combined. This just so happens to also be where the vast majority of our treasured wolf species live in the western United States. In 2014, US Fish and Wildlife reported that out of 6 million head of cattle, only 136 were killed. To put things in perspective, that’s .0023% or ONE cow killed by wolves for every 44,853 cattle in the region. In the same three states, US Fish and Wildlife reported that wolves killed 114 sheep out of 820,000 or .01%. That’s not even close to 1% in both cases.

In reality, old age, birthing complications, disease, and bad weather kill far more livestock than any predator, including these precious gray wolves. That is a statistical fact. See the chart below:

Graph courtesy livingwithwolves.org

Idaho Now Pays Hunters & Trappers for “Wolf Harvests”

As of 2021, the state of Idaho is currently reimbursing hunters and trappers for “harvesting” (capturing and killing) wolves. And yes, apparently this is 100% legal. In 2019, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission granted the Foundation for Wildlife Management $23,065 to help fund payments for wolves harvested in “elk recovery” areas (remember that stat we cited about there being no decline in the population of ungulates?). Here’s an idea: Instead of paying hunters and trappers for senselessly killing wolves, why not use that same budget to reimburse farmers for the small amount of livestock (after all, it’s well below 1% for both cattle and sheep) that are killed by wolves, foxes, coyotes, and other majestic wildlife predators? Seems like a more effective use of budget to me!

The Truth is Wolves and Ranchers Can Coexist

National Forests and Public Lands are home to livestock, wolves, and a ton of other wildlife. Given the diversity of the lands’ inhabitants, it’s no surprise that some minor conflicts may arise. And while we believe the statistical impact is minimal, we acknowledge that wolves do present some real challenges for ranchers. However, we know that co-existence is doable (it’s been done successfully in the past) with a few tactful approaches.

Many of our nonprofit partners, like Snow Leopard Conservancy (SLC), work on similar issues in foreign countries. For example, Snow Leopards will occasionally hunt livestock, threatening the livelihood of farmers simply trying to feed their family. To help resolve this issue, the SLC worked closely with local farmers to institute a few simple (but well thought out!) approaches to livestock safety that ultimately resulted in farmers and snow leopards being able to coexist. No more issues with livestock. No decline in the population of snow leopards. A literal Win-Win! :)

The Reality of Cattle Ranching & the Environmental Cost of Beef

First off, let me say that I’m not a vegan and this isn't some secret vegan agenda for a moratorium on meat. No, I eat meat. I don’t eat a lot of meat, but I do feel it has a place in society. That said, on average, each American consumes a whopping 274lbs of meat per year. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that Americans are consuming far more meat than what’s recommended by the national dietary guidelines. Interestingly enough, women eat ⅓ less meat than men and around 42% less beef. However, since 1961, the US Consumption of beef has risen by 40%.

The United States is one of the world’s biggest consumers of beef—second only to Argentina. In 2017, Americans consumed 81.74lbs of beef per person annually. And let me tell ya… raising cattle ain't no small feat. They use up an astonishing amount of resources, including vast swathes of forests where all this beautiful wildlife lives.

Would Eating Less Red Meat Actually Make a Difference?

If the entire US population were to cut their red meat consumption down by 50%, we could effectively reforest 133,768 square miles (aka the amount of land currently used for cattle ranching divided by half), which is basically the entire state of Montana (145,000 sq. mi.). Incorporating more vegetables (and less red meat) in your diet, will not only make you healthier, it’ll have a positive impact on the environment. By eating less red meat, you will be preventing further deforestation (which frees up land to be reforested to create an oxygen rich atmosphere), reducing environmental pollution, minimizing antibiotic resistance (cattle are fed a LOT of antibiotics), lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and helping to put an end to the unnecessary war on predatory species.

Roughly twenty-six percent of the world's ice-free land is used for livestock grazing, and thirty three percent of land for growing crops is dedicated solely to livestock feed. That is a staggering figure. This means that forests are not only being cut down for cattle to graze on, they are also being cut down just to grow the crops that will eventually feed the cattle.

Out of all the types of meat out there, beef contributes to greenhouse gas emissions (primarily methane) the most. What do greenhouse gas emissions have to do with you? They significantly contribute to the issue of climate change. Why are cattle producing all this methane? Because they have a ruminant digestive system that relies on specialized bacteria to break down the grasses they consume. The byproduct of this is methane—a greenhouse gas that is 34 times more devastating than Carbon Dioxide (CO2). 

While cattle ranching has become extremely profitable, it unfortunately has many ill effects on the environment. For one, cattle ranching destroys hundreds of thousands of square miles of rainforests around the world. The rainforests being impacted are vital to the Earth's ability to capture millions of metric tons (or trillions of pounds) of CO2 and sequester it (aka remove it from the atmosphere and help prevent global warming). Around 40% of South America's Amazon rainforest are in danger of turning into a desolate savannah as a direct result of deforestation. This is a very dangerous tipping point (the point of ‘no return’) for one of the world's most important sets of lungs (aka carbon sink). According to recent estimates we are about 20 years away from that collapse, which will cause a cascade of negative changes to our planetary ecosystem. If you don’t mind a little dense reading, give the Hysteresis of Tropical Forests in the 21st Century a look. 

Walter Willett, a nutritionist at Harvard University’s public health school said, “Eating beef raised on grain produced in the Amazon is like coal-fuelled power plants—the worst thing you could possibly do.”

Eat Less Meat & Save the Planet

I have always felt it empowering to stand for a cause. To unite for something good. Because at the end of the day, we are either contributing to the problem or helping clean it up. Fortunately, all you have to do to join the revolution is educate yourself, vote with your dollars, and pursue a balanced lifestyle. We’re not asking you to go extreme, just suggesting a little moderation. To be entirely honest, I've always felt my best when striving for balance. If I overwork, it takes a toll on my body. If I overtrain, it takes a toll… if I overeat it takes a toll… If I party too hard, well, you see where I’m going with this. That said, I’m challenging you to make some small but significant lifestyle changes. Nothing too crazy. You don’t have to become a vegan or vegetarian overnight to make a difference.

Photo courtesy Jonathan Borba

Instead, just try cutting your meat consumption down by 50%. Still too much? Start off with 25% or even 10% and work your way up. I can tell you from first hand experience as a seasoned wellness coach that every single one of my clients felt 1000x better when they ate 50% less meat. Not a single person felt worse when lowering their meat consumption. But don’t just take my word for it; try it out, see how you feel and you might be pleasantly surprised. This especially applies to all the men out there who don’t believe it’s possible to eat less meat. Trust me, you can do it guys! And you’ll feel absolutely fantastic doing it!

How to Take Action Against Legislation

By removing gray wolves from the list of Endangered and Threatened Species, the federal government essentially washed its hands of the issue and left it to the states to decide whether or not these animals deserve wildlife protection. We’re not giving up that easily though! We actually see this as an opportunity to make a difference at both the state and federal level. Those residing in the states most affected by these atrocities (Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana) are in the best position to make a difference considering it’s their votes that matter the most (in their respective states). Sharing credible knowledge and statistics with these constituents can help sway their opinion, and ultimately their vote. Beyond the state level, we hope to pressure the federal government into putting wolves back on the list of Endangered and Threatened Species so that they regain federal protections. This is our ideal scenario as it would override the recently passed state legislation that allows for this unethical slaughtering—but we MUST ACT QUICKLY because vast amounts of wolves and their pups are being murdered daily!

Since wolves were removed from the list, we have seen massacres in several states. In February 2021, there were 216 wolves killed in Wisconsin in less than 60 hours. What’s worse is that several states are now trying to pass bills as quickly as possible that would allow wolves to be slaughtered in their state. The bills on the table allow wolves to be trapped, snared, run over by snow mobiles, shot from planes or drones, or bludgeoned to death. Not to mention, they can provide bounties on wolf heads. The state of Montana is even going the extra mile to try and push these bills into the State’s constitution so that it’s virtually impossible to overturn.

So what do we do? We take action!And here’s how:

Some actions are more involved than others, so please review them all and take part in as many as your heart desires! <3

🐺 WRITE A LETTER TO THE WHITE HOUSE

Handwritten letters delivered via regular mail are one of the most effective and respected forms of communications to an elected official. Most handwritten letters are usually opened and read.

Tell President Biden you demand Gray Wolves be reinstated in the federal list of Endangered and Threatened Species due to the inhumane and unethical mass genocide currently happening to these poor animals.

Address your letters to:

The White House1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NWWashington, DC 20500

Here’s a step by step guide on how to write a letter to the President and where to send it.

🐺 EMAIL THE WHITE HOUSE

Emailing the White House is an easy (but less effective) way to get in touch. We’re not entirely sure how many emails actually get read, but regardless, you are only allowed 2500 characters to make your point (which may or may not be enough to get everything you want off your chest).

Here’s how you can easily email the President.

🐺 CALL THE WHITE HOUSE

1. Dial one of these numbers depending on who you’d like to reach and what you’d like to say:

  • For Comments: Call 202-456-1111 (TTY/TTD 202-456-6213)*FYI: This line is answered by volunteers with the current administration.

  • To reach the Switchboard: Call 202-456-1414 (TTY/TTD Visitors Office: 202-456-2121)*FYI: This line is answered by White House staff members.

2. Follow the guidelines. When your call is answered, guidelines may be provided by a person or an automated program. Use your keypad to enter any extensions or information, as directed.

3. State your request. Ask to speak to the President or make another request. Though the President likely cannot take your call, you may be directed to a representative who will listen to your thoughts and concerns.

o If you are an expert in some field and you wish to speak with the President, first contact the Cabinet Member who is responsible for that area. For example, a tenured professor should contact the head of the Department of Education.

4. Hang up when you’re done. Press end or simply hang up the phone when you have finished sharing your thoughts or speaking to a representative.

🐺 CONTACT THE WHITE HOUSE VIA SOCIAL MEDIA

Write your message carefully and considerately. Avoid using inappropriate language or threats of any kind. (DEFINITELY DO NOT MAKE THREATS!) Depending on the social media platform, you can post tagging hashtags and/or handles to get your message to the President. You may also post directly on the President’s page.

On Twitter, your message must be 280 characters or less. Post your tweet and tag the President’s handle to get the message to him. One of these should do the trick: @WhiteHouse, @POTUS, or @JoeBiden.

On Facebook, post directly to the wall or send a private message to the official White House Page, the official POTUS Page, or Joe Biden’s Page.

On Instagram, tag Joe in a post or send a Direct Message to @JoeBiden. Use handles or hashtags to get your message to the President. Use the handles @WhiteHouse and/or @POTUS, or the hashtags #WhiteHouse and/or #POTUS.

Special Thanks to APEX Protection Project

A big thank you to APEX Protection Project for all of their heartfelt and unwavering work towards ending the slaughter of wolves in the wild.  The section titled “How To Take Action Against Legislation” was sourced from our friends at APEX Protection Project. Please follow them to stay up to date on concerns regarding the Wolves in the United States.

Every time you share information on social media or speak out against the violence and atrocities happening in our backyard, you are helping bring awareness to a very fixable situation. We, the people, are the ultimate voice that matters. Thankfully, there are far more animal-loving humans in the world than there are animal haters. So, let’s make sure our voices are heard! We will keep condemning these violent actions against wolves and continue to pressure the politicians in power to listen to their constituents. So share content like this on your social media pages to promote awareness and education on the issue. Informing others of these atrocities goes a long way in helping our furry friends. Alternatively follow @apexprotectionproject and repost some of their incredibly informed and scientifically validated content.

 

-Latif Hamilton, SpiritHoods Founding Partner & CEO

 

Do you have the Spirit of the Wolf?Shop our collection of Wolf-inspired products with 10% of net profits donated back to helping save endangered animals and their habitats:

 

 


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