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Northern Rockies wolf report released

Predator Project found that wolves rarely survive outside of the three core recovery areas: Yellowstone National Park, central Idaho and Northwest Montana   

April 26, 1999
Web posted at: 4:30 PM EDT

A report released Friday by Predator Project, a Bozeman, Montana-based conservation group, highlights the successes of wolf restoration projects in the northern Rockies, but warns against a government "downlisting" of the species.

The report, "At a Crossroads: The Wolf and its Place in the Northern Rockies," examines the progress of wolf projects, but also looks at the obstacles in the way of successfully restoring wolf populations. Four key areas are highlighted: 1) achieving adequate wolf numbers and distribution; 2) connecting wolves across the northern Rockies; 3) maintaining adequate legal protections for wolves; and 4) protecting wolves across administrative boundaries.

The report presents two alternative futures for the wolves, one with a small number of wolves in three isolated areas and one with wolves tolerated on all public lands that can support them. Predator Project supports the latter.

The group urges the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state agencies and the American people to allow wolves to live in the areas they choose, so long as they avoid conflicts with people and livestock.

"If wolves can be largely left alone, and tolerated to live in areas where they can find sufficient territory and prey to reach recovery targets, wolf recovery appears to be within our grasp, ahead of schedule and under budget," according to Predator Project's report. "But if we intervene by aggressively controlling wolf distribution and wolf behavior, we will hobble recovery efforts and jeopardize all of the success attained to date."

Predator Project found that wolves rarely survive outside of the three core recovery areas: Yellowstone National Park, central Idaho and Northwest Montana. In Greater Yellowstone, for example, Predator Project found that more than two-thirds (22 out of 30) of the human-caused mortalities of the Yellowstone wolves have occurred outside of the national park, even though the wolves have spent the majority of their lives within the park's borders. Only half of those wolves were killed because they preyed on livestock; the other half were illegally shot or died in government traps set for coyotes.

"We believe wolves should be free to live on any public land they find suitable" said David Gaillard, Predator Project's Forest Predator Protection campaign coordinator. "We wouldn't need helicopters and tranquilizer darts to save the wolves -- the wolves would be able to take care of themselves."

A letter signed by 21 conservation groups, including Predator Project, has been sent to Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, urging the federal government to abandon plans to downlist the status of northern Rockies wolves from "endangered" to "threatened."

"We are strongly opposed to downlisting the gray wolf in the Northern Rockies because it is an effort based not on sound science, but what appears to be a political strategy, and one that may have profound adverse impacts on the recovery of imperiled species nationwide," said the groups in the letter.

For more information, contact David Gaillard, Predator Project, (406)587-3389, email:

Copyright 1999, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved

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Predator Project
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
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