Thursday, February 23, 2012

Idaho Wants to Use Live Bait to Hunt Wolves

Idaho Senate Bill 1305, the Wolf Depredation Control act, would give ranchers and farmers greater ability to go out and kill wolves who kill animals those same ranchers and farmers are planning on killing to feed people. Good times.

The bill allows farmers to hunt wolves within 36 hours of a supposed wolf kill. They can slaughter wolves at night, use live bait, including live sheep or dogs or cats to lure the wolves back so they can blow the wolves away. They can fly in helicopters and airplanes or send drones out to massacre the alleged wolves. And they can track them down using 4WD vehicles. I am totally envisioning that truly iconic scene from Marley Fowat's book, Never Cry Wolf.

I've always found these anti-native predator bills fascinating. For one, what do we expect when we throw a bunch of prey animals in an area with native predators? Two, I love when ranchers claim these bills are because they care about the animals they are raising for...slaughter. That argument feels a bit hollow. I would prefer honesty.

"He estimates the predators are costing the state's livestock industry as much as $2 million a year" He is the author of the bill.

Excellent and thank you. This guy performs a neat trick, though. Predators. Wolves are not the sole predators of sheep, goats or cattle. It is not wolves alone costing "people who raise animals for slaughter" $2 million a year.

But I was curious about the $2 million number.

Farmers lost $1.19 million from sheep predation (26% of all causes)

For cattle, farmers lost around 3.2 million (6% of the total amount lost each year from all causes).

So in actuality, predation costs farmers in Idaho around $4 million (out of a total of about $61 million in losses from all causes). For cattle, respiratory ailments kill as many as predators. For adult sheep, giving birth kills as many as ewes as predators.

But what about wolves?

Wolves account for 30% of cattle kills - less than $1 million. Wolves accounted for $146,000 in sheep losses. Coyotes comprise the majority of sheep and calf kills. I suppose the unique aspect of wolves is they hunt adult cattle, which would be difficult for coyotes.

Still, I have no clue where this guy got the $2 million number - it's not accurate on any front.

Humans are constantly trying to fight nature. It's a ceaseless war against natural predators and their prey. Why can hunters shoot bison if they wander off Yellowstone? Because magically they are going to have sex with all the female cows and give them STDs. We permit the hunting of "prey" animals that may compete with non-native domesticated animals for access to resources. We essentially have an open season on coyotes everywhere because they do what wild canids do. We try to relax federal and state protection for increasingly rare apex predator species - like wolves - because we want to eat beef or lamb or goat meat.

And that does not even touch on the fact we poison, by the millions, native (and non-native) birds who eat the seeds and grains we grow to fatten animals *we* want to eat. Animal agribusiness at its finest.

Despite all that, amazingly, many of these animals - especially coyotes! - manage to survive. I cannot fathom it. We push them off their habitats, keep them away from resources through fencing, shoot them, poison them, trap them, call them pests/dangerous/unwanted...and nature finds a way to keep some of them alive. That won't always be the case, of course. There will come a time when there won't be wild wolves, bison, mountain lions, elk, bighorn sheep, bears...and this world will be a sadder, emptier place. And when the non-native wild boars and native coyotes are gone, you know we're screwed - they are two of the greatest survivors, despite constant pressure from hunting, poison, encroachment, fear and hate.

I hope this bill fails miserably, but I also don't have much hope in the case of Idaho.

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